“This was the single largest back-to-back operation in which M.Y. Phoenix was involved. Within minutes of locating one overcrowded vessel, we spotted another and then another.”

Search and rescue charity MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) is pleased to note that a flotilla of private and navy rescue vessels are helping to alleviate the ongoing migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea.
M.Y. Phoenix, the only private Search and Rescue vessel now in its second year of providing emergency rescue. This year Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders is providing post-rescue assistance, including medical care on board.This weekend MOAS was involved in the rescue of more than 2,000 people from five separate migrant boats with the assistance of navy vessels from Italy, Germany and Ireland. After spending several hours providing immediate assistance as the only boat on site and then more hours coordinating the rescue efforts with others, M.Y. Phoenix is currently on its way to Sicily to disembark some 372 people including 184 men, 126 women and 62 minors, mostly from Eritrea.

“This was the single largest back-to-back operation in which M.Y. Phoenix was involved. Within minutes of locating one overcrowded vessel, we spotted another and then another. This kept happening until we found ourselves involved in the rescue of five boats carrying more than 2,000 migrants between them,” said Ret’d Lt Col. Ian Ruggier who was coordinating efforts on board M.Y. Phoenix.

Marco Cauchi, directing SAR operations on board M.Y. Phoenix, said the operation was complex.

“We had to bring all our assets to bear and work diligently for many hours. I have been conducting SAR in the central Mediterranean for many years and I can say this has been one of the most intense operations because of the sheer number of people and boats in distress,” he said.

M.Y. Phoenix is expected to arrive in Augusta, Italy today (Sunday 7th June) at 19.45 hrs  local time where it will conduct disembarkation.

“When MOAS first decided to sail out from Malta and save lives, many people thought it was a crazy idea. The reality is that it was a simple solution to a complex problem. People were drowning and the only way to stop them was to have a boat out there picking them up from the water,” said MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone.

“Since proving our capabilities, we have received a huge amount of support from people all over the world who have refused to sit back and watch desperate people drown. Now, our effort also seems to have inspired a number of other organizations to offer their own vessels to the cause. This is a great example of civil society responding to a global problem. We are incredibly proud of what we’re witnessing,” he said, referring to four other private vessels that will soon be operational in the Mediterranean.

MOAS, which has been conducting humanitarian rescues since August 2014, has helped rescue more than 6,400 lives.

Directed by Brig. Ret’d. Martin Xuereb, Malta’s former Chief of Defence, MOAS is a professional search and rescue operation. Two of the team members have over 25 years experience each.  The result is that MOAS has had a perfect record of rescues in which no migrants were injured or drowned during rescue. A number of recent casualties have been caused by commercial ships attempted to respond to rescues of migrant ships.

MOAS launched its second year of rescues on May 2nd and will be out dependent on funding for at least six months and ideally year round as deaths increase and the migrant flow continues unabated by weather or policy.

MOAS director Brig. Ret’d Martin Xuereb said: “When last year the EU scaled back its search and rescue operations, the shipping industry was left to handle the bulk of rescues itself. This was far from ideal. We are now pleased to note that saving lives is increasingly at the top of political agendas and we are happy to be working alongside others, including ships that are being provided by various European states. This is the cooperation for which we have always campaigned.”

“MOAS enjoys a great relationship with the Italian coastguard and other stakeholders operating in the area, and has recently also become a member of the International Maritime Rescue Federation,” he added. 

Xuereb was careful to point out that professional search and rescue at sea is not just a intention. It must be supported by a seasoned crew, equipment and focus on saving lives.

“We do not have time to debate politics while people are drowning,” he said.

MOAS still needs to raise some €1.5 million to be able to complete its six month mission at sea this year. Donations are being received at www.moas.eu/donate

For more information please contact:

Christian Peregin
MOAS Press Officer
+356 79241187 

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