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Death should not be measured by numbers

by Regina Catrambone

Picture by Darrin Zammit Lupi/

It has been a while that social media and the press are covered in the nowadays most shared fake news, which counterpose NGOs helping in saving lives in the seas and those who support them.

There are so many declarations, articles - often written down without knowing in deep the circumstances- and editorials which are of difficult comprehension.
Suddenly, it seems that everyone is an expert of International Law, Law of the sea, human rights and SAR (Search and Rescue) activities.

The lights pointed at sea-operating NGOs project heavy shadows on their daily activities. Two are the main accusations: the first concerns the alleged suppositions of collusion with the migrant traffickers and secondly it is tied with the hypothesis of non clear financing.
As stated many times,me and the MOAS team, we positively greet the desire to clarify the obscures points and we are looking to collaborate with the authorities. However, we regret the insinuations and accusations pointed towards MOAS as organization, and towards myself and my husband personally.

Without the shadow of any doubts, MOAS was born from the desire of me and my family to be useful with our own means, in order to stop this tragedy which constantly is displayed in our sea.
Surely we could not have payed attention to that floating jacket which was in front of us while we were sealing during our vacations. We could have ignored the clear fact that it was the last thing lasted of someone who was trying to reach a safe land. We could have been deaft to Pope Francis calling , who was asking for a mobilization against the globalization of indifference. We could have locked up ourselves in our comfortable lives deciding to do nothing for our brothers and sisters who daily perish in their hope.

But we did not do that.
That floating jacket in the crystal blue sea has been engraved in our hearts. If the priority of the International Community would have been that of saving human lives or if there would have been humanitarian organizations controlling the seas, our presence would have not been necessary. So our answers to inaction and indifference were courage and initiative.
Besides critics, accusations and verbal violences, we never regret to have chosen the path of courage.

Moas was born in the heart of my family but the idea was analyzed by sea-savings experts so it has assumed a rational form.
Before starting with the registration of MOAS and the sea-savings, we have worked a lot: from the very research of the boat and his adaptation as a new mean, by using drones and being served with medical equipment, to the research of personnel which would have help those in needs escaping secure death.

Since his first SAR operation, MOAS has saved more than 34.000 lives and assisted many more.
On April 19, 499 people, as to point an example, were safely rescued and brought to Augusta port after the terrible Easter week-end which saw many lives rescued. It was a unique fact acknowledge even by the experts of migrations.

In front of 8.500 lives disembarked in sicilian arbors between Friday 14 and Sunday 16, we could define ourselves lucky in the count of the few deaths.
But death could not be defined with numbers. Neither so life. Every death body in the sea is too much, is a life which could have been saved. A life which weigh on our conscience, as the life of the 8 year old child brought on board in our Phoenix when it was not possible to do much more.
Easter, a symbol of resurrection, for the team of MOAS had the bitter taste of the sorrow and mourning for that people.

Since every minute is precious, we had not wasted time and as soon as the mission had finished, we were back to Malta for provisions and supply before starting again with the operations.
On May 6 2017 Phoenix boat has entered Catania harbor with 394 persone and the dead body of a young boy, brutally killed for refusing to give to a trafficker his hat, as testimonies had said.
Beside the sorrow and frustration for not having saved more lives, it was a great joy to see 394 people saved: mothers with their newborn children, fathers with their daughters, boys and girls with their body signed by tortures and violence.

Is for those mothers with their babies, for those fathers and their daughters and for every boy and girl who dreams a life faraway from violence, we will continue to investigate the seas, we will continue to take care of the wounds, to provide life jackets and hot meals.
Is for all those lives that have find on the Phoenix kindness and love, that we do not give up to critics and accusations.

At the end, we have to remember that the sea rescue is not an option; it is an obligation stated in the codified international law with particular reference to UNCLOS convention (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed in Montego Bay in 1982).

Since 2014, the lethal stretch of Mediterranean sea is continuously traversed by migrants and refugees, and we still consider it as an emergency. It should not be a duty of NGOs to save lives in the sea. We should not wait until private citizens or organizations activates themselves to stop this sea holocaust.

To give up to SAR activities started by MOAS, as pioneer project in a moment in which Mare Nostrum operations were focused only on boats, it means to let people die.
MOAS was born to save lives and it will never give up to his mission until there will be found legal and safe alternatives, such as human corridors, to which we are working on since several months.

Regina Catrambone, founder of MOAS

Analysis by Regina Catrambone, founder of MOAS

12 May 2017

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