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Baby born then dies on migrant boat bound for Canary Islands

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Madrid (AFP)

A baby that was born aboard a makeshift boat carrying migrants from Africa to the Canary Islands did not survive the journey, Spanish rescuers said on Wednesday after picking up the rickety vessel.

The tiny infant, whose sex was unclear, was one of 43 people crammed onto an inflatable boat that was discovered floating some 15 nautical miles off Arrecife, the main port city on the island of Lanzarote, the Salvamento Maritimo rescue service said.

Speaking to AFP, a spokeswoman said rescuers knew that "a woman had given birth on board the boat" and when the vessel was brought ashore, the emergency services confirmed the newborn's death.

An emergency services spokeswoman said it was not immediately clear why the baby had died, saying they had taken three people to hospital -- the infant's mother, another pregnant woman and a 12-year-old boy suffering from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels.

Rescuers said the boat -- which was carrying people from sub-Saharan Africa, five of them minors -- had set sail on January 5.

Spain is one of the main entry points for African migrants seeking to reach Europe.

Last year, more than 32,000 people entered the country by land and sea, less than half of the number that arrived a year earlier, interior ministry figures show.

The numbers crossing the Strait of Gibraltar have dropped significantly but there has been a noticeable uptick in the Canary Islands, where 2,698 people arrived last year, more than double that of 2018.

A total of 127,590 people arrived in Europe last year, more than 80 percent of whom arrived by sea, figures released by the UN's International Organization for Migration show.

Another 1,291 died or went missing at sea.

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