A Lifeline
To Save

Every life matters.

We provide life-saving aid and medical care to the world’s most vulnerable migrant communities.

About MOAS

Founded by the Catrambone family in response to a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa that killed 368 people in October 2013, MOAS aims to provide a model for the engagement of civil society in tackling humanitarian crises around the world.

Upon launching its first mission in August 2014, MOAS was the first non-governmental organisation to run a Search and Rescue operation in the Mediterranean. Over the course of three years at sea, MOAS rescued and assisted more than 40,000 children, women and men in the Central Mediterranean and Aegean.

Having suspended SAR operations in August 2017, MOAS continues to monitor the situation at sea, and to advocate for the creation of safe and legal routes to protect desperate people seeking peace and security. In December 2017, in partnership with UNHCR, we organised an aerial evacuation mission to fly 74 vulnerable individuals out of Libya to safety in Niger.

In September 2017 we shifted our operational focus to Bangladesh, where we delivered 40 tonnes of humanitarian aid to support the government’s response to a massive influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar. Our team in Cox’s Bazar set up two Aid Stations, or primary health centres, to serve the refugee camps of Shamlapur and Unchiprang, as well as the local Bangladeshi communities.

To December 2018, the MOAS Aid Stations provided vital care and medication to over 90,000 patients. In April 2018, following reported sightings of Rohingya attempting to flee Myanmar by boat, we also ran a month-long observation mission in the Andaman Sea, drawing international attention to the need for a coordinated Search and Rescue strategy in the region.

Our mission in Bangladesh is now focused on delivering Flood and Water Safety Training to Rohingya refugees volunteering for training, empowering refugees to support their own communities in preparing for the dangers of the monsoon season. Meanwhile, we have launched a new mission to Yemen, where we are delivering life-saving pharmaceutical aid and famine relief to the port of Aden.

To find out more about our work, you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. To support our global advocacy campaign, join the conversation via #SafeAndLegalRoutes.


As a humanitarian organisation, MOAS uses a rights-based ethos in all of our work, abiding always by the principles of impartiality and neutrality. We exist to alleviate suffering and to aid those in distress, regardless of their political affiliation, race, religion or gender.


MOAS will work towards a world where all people are treated with dignity and respect, do not live in fear or have to risk their lives to achieve a decent standard of living.


To save lives and reduce suffering, particularly of migrants, refugees and displaced people.


Humanity and Courage

We will endeavour to mitigate loss of life and suffering among transient populations. We recognise that people have rights at all times. We will show compassion to those we serve and will call for all people to have their rights preserved under the law, humanitarian standards and common humanity.

Professionalism in Approach and Action

MOAS’ ambition is to produce positive change through high standard programmes. We are a diverse group of highly experienced and skilled professionals, who adhere to the MOAS values and work always to meet the needs of those we serve.


We will be transparent in our dealings and accountable to those we serve and those who support us. MOAS will operate in ways that promote trust in the organisation, its staff and its way of working.


We will seek to create the maximum benefit possible for the people we serve within our available resources. We will anticipate and accept risk and will collaborate with other stakeholders across the spectrum.


MOAS will continue to undertake pioneering work and will apply innovative technologies, resources and practises to further our mission


What is MOAS

MOAS is an independent NGO dedicated to mitigating the suffering of people forced to risk their lives to reach safety. We are a global organisation providing humanitarian aid, medical assistance and implementing support projects to refugees and migrants in distress. As an independent NGO, MOAS was founded and continues to operate on the principles of humanity, impartiality, and neutrality.

Where does MOAS operate?

In 2014 and 2015, MOAS was operational in the Central Mediterranean, where the crews on board its specialist SAR vessel, the Phoenix, rescued and assisted than 11,685 people.

From October 2015 the Phoenix was deployed in the Andaman Sea in response to the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis. As Rohingya people fled persecution and violence in Myanmar by attempting to reach Malaysia by boat, our SAR team worked closely with stakeholders in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Indonesia in a process of fact-finding and expanding diplomatic relations, establishing a vital ground network of information-sharing and advocacy around SAR in the region.

In December 2015, the organisation expanded its operations to the Aegean Sea is response to the crisis on the Turkey – Greece border, where countless Syrians were attempting the crossing to Europe. There, it operated with a second vessel, the Responder, saving the lives of 1,869 people during its three-month mission.

In June 2016, both MOAS assets were repositioned to the Central Mediterranean in response to escalating death tolls. Between June and December, the MOAS crews rescued and assisted almost 20,000 children, women and men.

On April 1st 2017, MOAS launched its fourth Central Mediterranean mission, comprising one SAR vessel, the Phoenix, supported for the first time by a manned aerial asset. The mission ended in August 2017, having rescued and assisted 7,286 people.

In September 2017, MOAS shifted operations to South East Asia in response to the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis along the Myanmar and Bangladesh border. There, our team are working to provide aid and medical assistance to those displaced.

Why have you suspended operations in the Central Mediterranean?

Over the past weeks and months the situation in the Central Mediterranean has continued to develop. At the moment it is unclear what is happening in Libya to the detriment of the most vulnerable people there. We are seeing an ever-increasing focus on border control, with little consideration of the fate of migrants and refugees trapped in Libya.

MOAS does not want to become part of a mechanism where there is no guarantee of safe harbour or welcome for those being assisted and rescued at sea. As a humanitarian organisation, we cannot in good conscience take part in a process that will actively send the vulnerable people we rescue back into harm’s way. As such, in August 2017 the decision was taken to indefinitely suspend our operations in the Central Mediterranean.

MOAS will continue to maintain situation awareness in the Mediterranean, ready to react to any change that would allow it to resume operations in line with our humanitarian principles, and will continue our campaign to advocate for the creation of safe and legal routes.

Why have you shifted operations to South East Asia?

MOAS has always monitored global humanitarian issues and been adaptive to fast-moving developments, making sure we are always where we are most needed. The Rohingya people, who mostly live in Rakhine State, Myanmar, are described by the UN as ‘the most persecuted minority in the world’ and are facing a growing humanitarian crisis. On August 27th 2017, Pope Francis called on the international community to support our Rohingya brothers and sisters, forced to flee because of escalating violence, persecution and human rights violations.

Determined to continue our humanitarian work and building on MOAS’ long-standing dedication to alleviating the plight of the persecuted Rohingya people, in September 2017 MOAS took the decision to shift our operations to South East Asia to provide much-needed aid and assistance to Rohingya refugees.

Over 687,000 Rohingya people have fled across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh, where they are in desperate need of food, shelter and medical assistance. Many are living in makeshift camps with little access to humanitarian aid. Recognising the need for our dynamic and fast-moving operational model, MOAS is on the ground in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, providing urgent medical care.

Has MOAS previously been present in South East Asia?

Yes; in October 2015, the Phoenix travelled to the Bay of Bengal on a seven-month fact-finding mission working closely with stakeholders in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. We were able to expand diplomatic relations and establish a vital ground network of information-sharing for advocacy around SAR in the region. Our sister organisation, Xchange, also conducted a survey of 1,000 Rohingya people to understand how they perceived migration in the region (the report can be found here).

Who are the Rohingya People?

The Rohingya are a minority Muslim population living in Rakhine State, Myanmar, which spans Myanmar’s coast along the Bay of Bengal from Bangladesh to the Irrawaddy Delta.

The Rohingya speak Rohingya, a dialect that is distinct to others spoken in Rakhine State and throughout Myanmar. They are not recognised as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982.

Although they have lived in Myanmar since the 12th Century, the Myanmar government considers the Rohingya people as illegal immigrants. From 1824, the British began the colonisation of Myanmar, and in their rule between 1824 and 1948 oversaw a considerable movement of labourers to Myanmar from neighbouring countries. As the British administered Myanmar as a province of India, they considered this as internal movement. Post-independence, the government viewed this migration as illegal, and on this basis deny the Rohingya people citizenship.

There are currently an estimated 1.1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar, mostly in Northern Rakhine State, where they face discrimination and poverty. Following outbreaks of violence in 2012 and 2016, more than 120,000 Rohingya people are living in Internally Displaced Persons (IPD) camps in Central Rakhine State.

For decades, Rohingya people have sought sanctuary from conflict and persecution in nearby countries. Further violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, in August 2017 has led to at least 687,000 people fleeing across the border with Bangladesh, with thousands heading to the camps in Cox’s Bazar. The speed and scale of the arrivals has led to a critical humanitarian emergency.

What is the situation in Bangladesh?

Bangladesh has been hosting Rohingya refugees for the past 30 years, but even beyond the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis, Bangladesh is facing a humanitarian crisis of its own. Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and as of September 2017 over 8 million people had been affected by floods. While the country has made significant progress in reducing poverty, its extremely high population density and vulnerability to climate change mean that resources are spread thinly.

Refugees arrive with very few possessions and are reliant on humanitarian assistance for food and shelter. According to the IOM, all new arrivals are in need of emergency food assistance. Over 150,000 children under the age of 5 need malnutrition prevention, and at least 14,000 children are acutely malnourished. Hundreds of thousands of newly arrived refugees are living in makeshift camps, where there is often no access to water and sanitation facilities. Primary health care coverage needs to be urgently established in all new settlements, as those in makeshift camps are often unable to access medical care due to the distance to established healthcare facilities and the extremely poor condition of the roads.

In this context, international awareness of and action on the Rohingya refugee crisis is sorely needed.

What does the mission in South East Asia entail?

Throughout September 2017, MOAS completed a ground assessment regarding the dire conditions faced by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. We found that there was an extremely urgent need to distribute food and provide medical assistance to the ever-increasing number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar.

On 1st October and 18th November 2017, the Phoenix completed two 20-tonne aid deliveries to Bangladesh, comprising essential rations such as rice, salt, vegetable oil, sugar and lentils which were shared with the Bangladeshi national agencies responsible for aid distribution.

On 14th October 2017, the first MOAS Aid Station opened in the village of Shamlapur, Bangladesh. The centre provides much-needed medical care to Rohingya refugees, particularly to pregnant women, new mothers and children in the makeshift refugee camps around the village. The second Aid Station opened on the 10th November 2017 to serve the remote spontaneous settlement of Unchiprang. Both Aid Stations continue to provide much-needed primary health care to hundreds of people every day.

Who finances you?

MOAS was founded by Christopher and Regina Catrambone in conjunction with search and rescue professionals, completing its first proof of concept mission in 2014. This initial 60-day mission was funded through the contributions of our founders and donations from private citizens.

From 2015, MOAS was privately funded through the support of the public, grant-making organisations, crowd-funding initiatives, foundations and corporate sponsorship. Operational partners, including MSF, Emergency, and Red Cross Italy with the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross, have also been major contributors to our mission.

In October 2016, MOAS received its first grant from the Swiss Development Agency, the SDC, marking our first contribution from any state-affiliate.

Today, MOAS continues to be primarily supported by grant-making foundations, corporate sponsorship, and donations from private citizens.

How can I get involved?

We need supporters at every level to ensure the successful continuation of our mission, and help raise awareness of the plight faced by those in the regions where we operate.

We rely on donations to make our humanitarian activities possible. You can make a donation here, or can launch your own fundraising campaign on our special platform here.

For more information, or if you represent a foundation or a private company interested in partnering with MOAS for the purposes of operations, fundraising or advocacy please email us at info@moas.eu.

MOAS is looking for volunteer medical staff to join its team in Cox’s Bazar. If you think you can be of assistance to our humanitarian efforts, email your CV with a cover letter to info@moas.eu.

If you would like to be kept up-to-date on our operations and get news on migration from our communications team, sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page or follow us on social media.

To ask about getting involved as a photographic or journalistic embed, or for information about our PR/Media initiatives, please email pr@moas.eu.

Do you issue receipts for donations?

MOAS issues receipts for tax deductions applicable in Malta, Germany and the US, as long as donations are channelled through the relevant platform. Please follow the instructions on the donate page by clicking here, or email us for guidance on how to donate at info@moas.eu.