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Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to camps such as this one on the Lebanon border, but over 3,000 have boarded boats to Italy Bilal Hussein/AP/Press Association Images

Syrian refugee gives birth on boat off Italian coast

The Italian Coast Guard intercepted two refugee boats off the coast of Syracuse, but found a newborn child on board one.

A SYRIAN REFUGEE gave birth at sea on her way to Italy as the number of arrivals fleeing the war-torn country this year rose to nearly 3,000 people, officials said.

The woman was one of 355 refugees — most of them from Syria — on two boats intercepted by coast guard and navy vessels and escorted to Sicily today.

“We found her with a piece of the umbilical cord still attached,” Luca Sancilio, the local coast guard commander in Syracuse told news channel SkyTG24.

Sancilio initially said the woman had given birth to a little girl, although the hospital where they were taken later said the baby was in fact a boy.

The coast guard estimated the baby was about four days old and was born during the eight-day voyage.

Mother and son are well and resting, the hospital said.

A coast guard plane yesterday spotted the heavily overcrowded boat that the woman was travelling on.

The people on board included 48 children.

Mario de Rosa, captain of a navy patrol boat that came to the rescue, told SkyTG24 that the refugee boat suffered engine failure in stormy seas.

Another boat carrying 107 Syrian refugees landed in Sicily yesterday, getting stuck on rocks just off the shore.

Three Egyptian crew members from that boat have been arrested on chargesof aiding illegal immigration.

Thousands of asylum-seekers have landed in Sicily in recent weeks, many of them coming from Egypt and Syria.

“There are now more Syrians than anyone else. This is a really dramatic exodus,” Sancilio said.

The interior ministry said 2,872 Syrians have landed in Italy so far this year.

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Explainer: What is going on in Syria?

Read: US forces to ‘punish’ Syria, not push regime change

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