Immigration has become an International issue. The European Union and Onu try to find a solution to this emergency because Italy and Malta can’t be left alone. To talk about these questions, European Affairs has interviewed Martin Xuereb, Director of Migrants Offshore Aid Station (Moas).
When and why was Moas founded?
“Moas was setup in 2014 in Malta. The idea came to Regina and Christopher Catambrone after that 400 migrants drowned close to Lampedusa during the summer of 2013. After the visit of the Pope in Lampedusa, again in 2013, when he made an appeal to help these people in any possible way, Regina and Christopher had the spark. They started thinking about an organization to save lives in Mediterranean context because none deserves to die out at sea. I became involved in February of 2015, when they proposed this project to me to help, aid and save migrants’ lives”. We are a private entity and we depend on the donations people make. We hope that our message, that life is precious no matter who the person is, ispires others to donate.
What’s yours working activity?
“We started this project last year. We went out at sea where after a 16-day operation we saved 3000 people. We came back in September and October. At the end of October, we started thinking about an operation in 2015. Now, one thing that is very different from 2014, it’s our partnership with Msf. They have taken over and provided host rescue assistance. Moas has a 40 metre boat (Phoenix). Again, it’s two Remote Piloted Aircraft and two RHIBs (rigid-hulled inflatable boats) that can react and fly if there is higher requirement of information: they are coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Center. Then, we have two dinghies that can be deployed if there is a boat out at sea that needs assistance. The choice to take migrants on board is taken in coordination with the Rescue Coordination Centre. When migrants are on boats, Msf, with their doctors , nurses and logistics thing will take over to provide them with medical care and to feed them”.
How are competences learned during humanitarian rescues on the high seas important?
“Searching rescue is very challenging. You need capability, knowledge and attitude to most risk. Obviously, you need to work for the love of it, but more importantly you need to be able to do professionally rescues because we are dealing with people’s lives”.
What were results in the last year?
“3000 people were saved in 60 days of operation in 2014. In 2015, starting from May 2nd, we have rescued 1,441people, from unseaworthy boats in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. MOAS carried out six separate rescue missions, providing shelter and lifejackets to 106 children, 211 women and 1,124 men on board the 40-metre (130 ft.) vessel M.Y. Phoenix”.
What institutions and entities you are collaborating with?
“First of all is Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. Then, we are receiving the support of the Rescue Coordination Centre in Malta. They have the responsibility to coordinate rescue missions and we are happy to receive tasks from them. Their relationship is very positive. They’re very much aware of our capability, of the fact that we do not only have boats out at sea, but we also have drones and clinic on board. While like every other boat out there, we have legal obligation to assist boats in distress: we have made it our mission. The difference between us and merchant ships is that our mission is that of saving lives.
After European Council tripled Triton’s funding, have immigration became an European issue?
“I think that this is an International issue that requires a Global solution. We are saying that Europe should not be weak. We would want to see a wider perspective. I need to say this because everyone needs to be aware that most of the rescues are being conducted in International waters. Why should Italy take responsability by itself when rescues are conducted in International waters? Rescue missions should be coordinated by someone else. We think that people should come to the rescue: not only states, but also private companies and entities. As Moas, in conjunction with Msf, we want to bring on the table a new modus operandi”.