MOAS Memories – Mimmo

Our professional and specialist crew is an important part of what makes MOAS the field-leading organization it has become. We are proud of our team on the front lines and we are constantly getting questions about the kind of people we have on board and the various positions they fill. This week we sat with Dominic ‘Mimmo’ Vella, who has been driving the rescue boat on the Phoenix since MOAS started its operations in 2014. He spoke to us about his experiences with MOAS and one individual he connected with most in the Aegean last Winter.

This job is not easy. You give a lot, but you get so much more in return. It makes you appreciate life more.”

“The situation in the Aegean is different from the Central Mediterranean. Despite the smaller number of people on the rubber boats – I think the most we encountered was about 50 – the Aegean was very dangerous. First, it was winter and the seas were very rough. Then there are all the islands, which don’t have lights. Migrants would often end up hitting rocks which made it so dangerous. The Central Mediterranean gets more difficult every year because of the increased number of people on each rubber boat. Whereas before we would find a maximum of 115 people on a single boat, this year we’ve come across 130, even 150 people on one boat. This makes the rescue more difficult.”

“The most challenging rescue we had this summer was also the most rewarding. When we arrived on scene we found the vessel already fully submerged in water. Everyone was still standing inside it but they had water coming up to their necks. They couldn’t even move. As soon as we brought the centifloats near them, everyone started pushing each other and a lot of people ended up in the water. Aircrafts from the navy lowered life rafts down into the water and thankfully we saved them all. It was such an incredible moment. The rescue diver even had a pregnant woman who was dragged under the life raft. He jumped in and saved her. Everyone did such a perfect job that day.”

“We’ve had a few situations this year where we found lifeless bodies, and that’s something that remains with you. In my experience, you can get all the help you need but at the end of the day you must bring yourself out of that mindset. You must look forward and do your best to save more lives.”

“This job is not easy. You give a lot, but you get so much more in return. It makes you appreciate life more. When we were in the Aegean, I met a young Syrian boy from one rescue who, despite everything he’d had to go through that night, was always smiling and looking forward to starting a new life. He was cuddling his mother who was very tired, and in order not to wake her up, his glasses were slipping down his face. So, I went over and fixed his glasses for him and we started talking. He had lost everything. His home, his toys, his friends, school – everything. Still he smiled that innocent smile, looking forward to start a new life. You learn so much from these people, especially the children.”

Mimmo recalls a memorable encounter:


If you have a question for Mimmo, or the rest of our team, simply #AskMOAS on social media. For all the MOAS news and updates sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page. Finally, support our rescue missions by giving whatever you can to help us save lives at sea.