Over the weekend search and rescue charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (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 headed 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, requiring all of the available assets to be employed.
“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 arrived in Augusta, Italy on Sunday 7th June where the rescued people were disembarked.
“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,” said MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone, 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.
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.
The charity still needs to raise some EUR 1.5 million to be able to complete its six month mission at sea this year.