Entrepreneurship & the Global Migration Phenomenon

Our co-founder, Regina Catrambone, was recently invited to speak at WIRED2016. In her speech she outlined how essential it is that entrepreneurs, and civil society at large, do their part to help deal with the ongoing global migration phenomenon. Read an excerpt of her speech below.

The heartbreaking stories of migrants stranded at sea (and how you can help)

Imagine you are on the high seas, pressed together with many other people on a tiny boat. You have no food, no water, no space to sit, no air to breathe. You are trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. Before boarding the boat, you knew that thousands of people had already died attempting the same journey. Yet, you felt that you were ready to take that risk. You had no other option.

Your house has been bombed; members of your family have been killed; you are running for your life because of a brutal regime; terrorists have attacked your town. Or extreme poverty has made you lose any hope for your future and that of your family and your children. There is little chance you will make it to the shores of Italy in that sinking, overcrowded boat.
But you are so desperate that you will try anything. After all, you have nothing else to lose. You will make it to Europe, or you will die trying.

Unfortunately, these scenarios are not stereotyped scenes of a distant, virtual world; but the everyday reality of a humanitarian catastrophe that has been unfolding in front of our eyes.

My husband Christopher and I got this reality check in the summer of 2013 while on holiday in the Mediterranean, sailing on a boat between Lampedusa and Tunisia. The contrast could not have been more clear: we were cruising the same sea where thousands of people were dying in search for a better life. As citizens, we had the moral and ethical responsibility to care. As entrepreneurs, we had the capability to do something. We knew we didn’t have “the solution” in our hands. What we did have, however, was an expertise in the emergency response sector, the motivation, and the resources to save lives.

MOAS has been a life-changing experience for my family and for all our team. It has not been an easy journey. Besides the overwhelming support and recognition received from all over the world, we have also exposed ourselves to criticism and hatred. One of our goals was to shift the attention of the media and humanitarian organizations from land to the sea, making an appeal to civil society. Thanks to MOAS acting as a pioneer, today many other humanitarian organizations are out at sea saving people. Being on the front lines of the Mediterranean migration crisis has reinforced our conviction that we – as private citizens, as entrepreneurs – have a moral duty as well as the ability to contribute to this global humanitarian tragedy.

For years now, the issue of global migration has been used in divisive political rhetoric. Not only have we failed to find sustainable solutions, we have also become almost indifferent to the plight of human beings desperately asking for our help. History teaches us that building walls or distancing ourselves by placing responsibility only in the hands of legislators and a few countries will not help us to find a solution. Unless we – civil society – act, people will continue to die trying to cross borders in search of a decent life, and the human cost of this phenomenon is everyone’s responsibility.

When the cynicism of politics is unable to find efficient answers, the practical entrepreneurial spirit can come to the rescue. I believe we need the visionary eye of social entrepreneurs who can recognise that beyond the negative images portrayed; migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are simply talented human beings like you and I. MOAS has done just that. It has set an example, showing that every single citizen can make a difference.

Before MOAS launched, search and rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean was only in the hands of States, mainly Italy. Despite doing their best to save people, they were not enough. We are proud to have inspired other civil society organisations to step in and to save people out at sea. The experience of MOAS shows that entrepreneurs and innovators have the capability to pave the way for practical and sustainable answers. We cannot stand by and watch anymore.