An International Response to a Global Crisis: MOAS and the Italian Red Cross strengthen their partnership to save lives at sea

MY Phoenix Photo courtesy of MOAS.EU 

As the humanitarian migration crisis continues to intensify to worryingly critical levels, the Italian Red Cross (CRI) and the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) have agreed to further strengthen their joint mission to save lives on the world’s most dangerous migration route, the Mediterranean Sea.

With the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (IFRC), CRI will be enhancing their contribution to the MOAS 2016 Mediterranean mission by partnering with MOAS aboard both its search and rescue vessels – Phoenix and Responder.

In addition to the already existing team of medics aboard the Phoenix, who for the past two months have been providing post-rescue care to those assisted at sea, a second team of nurses and doctors from the Italian Red Cross will join the MOAS crew aboard the Responder, where they will provide first aid, medical care, food, dry clothes, blankets and toiletries to the thousands of people being saved.

“Men, women and children are drowning every day as they attempt to reach Europe in search of a safer future”, said Italian Red Cross President Francesco Rocca. “While our joint rescue service will ensure the safety of more lives, we are fully aware that this is not a solution to the crisis. Governments – the President added – have a duty to work towards addressing the root causes that are forcing people to leave their homes, and safe and legal avenues for migration must be prioritized”.

Over 10,500 people have been rescued and assisted by the crews aboard Phoenix and Responder in the two short months since MOAS launched its 2016 Mediterranean mission on 6th June.

“MOAS is excited about this new chapter in our ongoing journey; from being the first NGO to undertake maritime search and rescue provision in the Mediterranean to working with an organisation like the Italian Red Cross, which is part of a movement with global reach. We have come a long way in just two years” said the Managing Director of MOAS Peter Sweetnam.

Over 3,100 people have already lost their life in the Mediterranean this year. Despite the number of arrivals by sea remaining almost equal to 2015, the estimated death toll as of July 2016 already exceeds that of total for 2015.

“Our crews at MOAS have worked tirelessly for the past couple of years to mitigate the disastrous consequences of a historical mass movement of people fleeing poverty, conflicts and violence”, said founder of MOAS Christopher Catrambone.

“Search and rescue at sea is vital in order to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe which has been going on for too long. However, it is obvious this is not the solution to a global phenomenon, which urgently requires an international humanitarian response. Our partnership with CRI is a significant step towards that direction,” said Catrambone.


Italy is currently the primary entry point for migrants heading to Europe with more than 94,000 arrivals since the start of the year. The majority of deaths have occurred on the long and deadly Central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy which is where the Red Cross and MOAS search and rescue service will operate.


The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) is an international not-for-profit organisation that provides professional search-and-rescue services along the world’s deadliest border crossing – the sea. Since its inception in 2014, MOAS has rescued over 24,000 people in the central Mediterranean and Aegean seas. Currently, MOAS is operating in the central Mediterranean with two vessels, the Phoenix and the Responder, equipped with two Schiebel S-100 camcopter drones, fast rescue crafts and a crew of rescue professionals.


In addition to sea search and rescue the Italian Red Cross is supporting migrants across the country with food, clothes and hygiene kits for men, women and children; first aid, basic health care and psychosocial support; hygiene promotion; reconnecting families, and facilitating two-way communication with communities. The Italian Red Cross also seeks to extend its system of Safe Points, which support migrants who are outside of any reception centres and have difficulties in accessing local services.

Article and photograph reproduced with kind permission of MOAS

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Maria Teresa Sette  +356 79849591 / Paula Galea +356 99408209


Laura Bastianetto +39 320 7979485/ Alessia Lai +39 3200609166

Adam Blitz is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London and a former Fulbright scholar. He writes on cultural heritage and its demise. He is a member of PEN International. On Twitter @blitz_adam

About the Author
Adam Blitz is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London and a former Fulbright scholar. He is a member of PEN International. The views expressed in the article above are those of the author alone. Twitter @blitz_adam