By Darrin Zammit Lupi
A barely perceptible dot on the horizon, disappearing every few seconds behind the rolling waves, a rubber dinghy carrying a group of migrants is very easily missed if you don’t know where to look.
The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship Phoenix set off from the Italian island of Lampedusa the night before in the middle of a lightning storm and had, for the past five hours, been making its way towards the dinghy’s last known position.
MOAS, which started operating at the end of August, has to date been involved in the rescue of some 2,200 migrants crossing from Libyan shores. The Malta-based privately funded humanitarian initiative was set up by U.S. citizen Christopher Catrambone and his Italian wife Regina after the October 2013 Lampedusa tragedies, which left hundreds dead. They were inspired by the Pope’s appeal for entrepreneurs to do something tangible to help and to go beyond just donating money.
They bought, refurbished and equipped the 40-metre ship Phoenix and took on a professional crew of rescuers, seafarers, paramedics and humanitarians.
As soon as I first heard about MOAS, I felt inspired by the premise that it operates under – that no one deserves to die at sea. I’d wanted to get on board the Phoenix for the past several months – there was one small problem – space on the Phoenix is at a premium on board and every inch is dedicated to saving lives. The only way I could get on was to convince them that even great photographs help save lives.