Two philanthropists, who founded a charity to rescue migrants drowning at the Mediterranean Sea last year, are to launch a new rescue mission in the Aegean Sea.
The Migrant Offshore Aid Station, (MOAS) founded by Regina and Christopher Catrambone, with the help of their daughter Maria Luisa, are set to launch a new rescue mission to help thousands of people who continue to travel every week in unsafe vessels.
MOAS will position the 51-meter Topaz Responder, a custom-made emergency response vessel in Greek territorial waters to act as a fast response and patrol search and vessel.
The Topaz Responder will host two high-speed rescue vessels on board capable of being launched rapidly or kept on patrol.
The couple, both Roman Catholics, found a suitable boat, the 40-metre Phoenix, in Norfolk, Virginia. Renamed it, and equipped it with a flight deck and two rigid-hulled inflatable boats. Last year, following the deaths of more than 360 people off the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Rome government devoted almost 1,000 naval and other personnels to a more detailed search and rescue effort under the codename of Operation Mare Nostrum.
Christopher Catrambone said: “We are expanding thanks to the overwhelming support we have received from all over the world in the past months. We now plan to have a presence in all three major migrant crossing routes. Each life we save is a testament to everybody who has donated to turn MOAS into the global NGO it is today."
“These people are desperate,” Regina Catrambone said. “We just want to make sure that they do not die in desperation.”
She said their Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) would not try to compete with Maltese or Italian rescuers. “We want to help them. We want to support them,” she said.
Catrambone said she and her husband, who own an insurance business based in Malta, first encountered the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean after chartering a skippered yacht to take them on a cruise to Tunisia.
She said: “I was out on the deck enjoying the fresh air when I saw a winter jacket in the water. I told the captain and saw his face transform. He said it could be that the jacket belonged to someone who was not with us anymore.”
Watching a television broadcast of Pope Francis back in Malta, the couple said, was the turning point for them. The Pope called on entrepreneurs who could afford to help the migrants to do so.
MOAS team and its efforts are nothing short of the extraordinary and their work is essential in making sure that stories like this don’t become so ordinary that we hardly take notice.
Last year, BBC reported that MOAS saved nearly 3,000 lives in 60 days. Equipped with experience, the latest technology and an adherence to the highest safety standards, we will save more lives this year than ever.