Italian teams up with MSF to rescue migrants

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Regina Catrambone co-founded Moas with her husband Christopher. Photo: Moas
16:32 CEST+02:00
Moas, a humanitarian venture that was co-founded by an Italian woman, has teamed up with the aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, to rescue boat migrants in the Mediterranean.

The joint search, rescue and medical aid operation will run from May until October, the peak period when thousands of people risk their lives trying to get to Europe.

Moas, which stands for Migrant Offshore Aid Station, was founded last year by Regina Catrambone and her American husband, Christopher.

Between August and October they rescued over 3,000 migrants on their boat, the 40-metre MY Phoenix, which is stationed in Malta.

More than 3,400 people died trying to reach Europe from Africa in 2014. The death toll this year is predicted to be higher after Italy stopped its rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, in November after its EU partners refused to share running costs of around €9 million a month.

The service was replaced by the EU’s Triton, which comes under the authority of the EU borders agency Frontex.

But that operation has been described by the UN refugee agency as “woefully inadequate”.

“Europe has turned its back on people fleeing some of the worst humanitarian crises of our time,” Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF’s general director, said in a statement.

“The decision to close doors and build fences means that men, women and children are forced to risk their lives and take a desperate journey across the sea. Ignoring this situation will not make it go away. Europe has both the resources and the responsibility to prevent more deaths on its doorstep and must act in order to do so.”

A crew of 20 people, including two MSF doctors and a nurse, will be stationed in the central Mediterranean aboard the MY Phoenix. The boat is equipped with high speed rigid hull inflatable boats and surveillance drones.

The crew will be equipped to provide lifesaving emergency care as well as to treat dehydration, fuel burns, severe sunburn and hypothermia, which are expected to be some of the most pressing medical needs of people who may have already spent days at sea.

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The Moas team includes director Martin Xuereb, a Maltese native who trained in Italy and at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK, and Marco Cauchi, the onboard operations officer.

“Our motivation is simple,” Xuereb said.

“No one deserves to die, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that those who feel compelled to undertake this treacherous sea crossing in makeshift vessels do not drown.”

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