Three Years of MOAS: Powerful Images

This August marks the third anniversary of the launch of MOAS operations. Since the beginning of our mission, photographers have been present on board MOAS vessels in order to bear witness to the continuing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Here, we look back on some of the most powerful images taken during our time at sea.

May 2017: People desperately try to reach a MOAS rescue vessel after being thrown into the water after their boat partially capsized. In the background, the wooden boat can be seen listing with hundreds of people still on board.

May 2017: A man and young boy from the same wooden boat struggle after hundreds of people had fallen into the sea.

June 2017: After falling off the side of a packed rubber boat carrying 124 people, men clamour to reach a MOAS rescue vessel. The crew managed to reach everyone and all survived.

June 2016: Men can be seen crammed into the hold of a wooden boat carrying 331 people. With fewer vessels at their disposal, smugglers put lives at risk by squeezing as many people as possible into the hold to maximise profit.

September 2016: A mother holding her child on board one of MOAS’ rescue vessels shows her gratitude after being rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat.

May 2017: Exhausted MOAS crew members, Paul and Beppe, try to catch their breath after pulling multiple people out of the sea. After rescuing hundreds of people, the crew then returned to recover the bodies of those who could not be saved.

June 2017: A pregnant woman with breathing problems is transferred to Phoenix from Sea Watch 2. She was later transferred to an Italian Coastguard vessel. NGOs and authorities have worked together to save lives for as long as search and rescue NGOs have been present in the Mediterranean.

September 2016: Infants are carried off an overcrowded rubber boat that had departed Libya some 12 hours prior by MOAS Rescue Swimmer Darren and Able Seaman Igor.

March 2016: A baby is lifted onto the Responder after being rescued by MOAS. He was one of 63 Yazidi people – of which 34 were children – rescued from a rubber boat 2 miles north east of the Greek island of Agathonisi in the Aegean Sea.

January 2016: A child, one of 14 minors on board a re-purposed lifeboat carrying 55 people, is pulled onto the deck of MOAS vessel Responder.

January 2016: After jumping into the sea in an attempt to reach and alert rescuers, a Syrian man climbs up the Jason’s Cradle rescue ladder and onto the Responder, with encouragement from MOAS rescuers on deck.

January 2016: After spotting a deflating rubber boat in 1.5 metre waves close to Agathonisi in the Aegean Sea, MOAS approached and rescued all 40 people on board. The vessel was in such a bad condition that had it not been spotted when it was, all of the passengers would have ended up in the water.

June 2016: MOAS Rescue Swimmer Pete holds a baby having just rescued her from a large wooden boat. She was soon on board the Responder with her mother and the other 453 people rescued by MOAS on the same day.

July 2016: An infant is taken on board one of MOAS’ fast rescue vessels after being rescued from a rubber boat containing 108 people in the early hours of the morning.

September 2016: A man hangs onto his friend after multiple people slipped off their vessel and into the water. The overcrowded rubber boat was deflating and leaking fuel. Many people drowned and others suffered severe fuel burns.

July 2016: After recovering multiple people safely from the water, MOAS Rescue Swimmer Joey receives applause from appreciative beneficiaries and responds in kind.

September 2016: Women sing and clap as they sail toward Italy after being rescued by MOAS from a flimsy rubber boat.

July 2016: Sudanese children pose for a picture as they wait to be transferred to another vessel after they were rescued by MOAS.

September 2016: A brother and sister from Nigeria rest on the lower deck of MOAS vessel Phoenix after being rescued from a rubber boat.

May 2015: A young Eritrean man sings and claps with fellow Eritreans on board the Phoenix. He had been travelling alone and was helped on his way by the Eritrean women pictured. He has now continued his education in Switzerland.

September 2016: A Libyan man, who had witnessed atrocities committed against his family, cries as he finally reaches Italy.

August 2016: A 10 year-old Libyan boy, travelling together with his adult brother, is left in the care of authorities in the Italian port of Catania.

September 2016: A young boy and his father wait in line to be processed by Italian authorities. He had also been travelling with his sister who tragically drowned when multiple people on their rubber boat fell into the sea.

January 2016: MOAS crew member Mimmo says goodbye to two children he had helped to rescue from a vessel containing 55 people in the Aegean Sea.


If you’d like to support MOAS and the work that we do, please donate what you can or fundraise for us on our fundraising platform. If you’d like to learn more about our mission and the story of MOAS, you can watch a documentary on our work here. Finally, if you’d 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.