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MOAS quits the Med: 'Search and rescue is not the solution to the ongoing migration crisis'

"MOAS does not want to become part of a mechanism where there is no guarantee of safe harbour or welcome for those being assisted and rescued at sea. In this context, and on the basis of our humanitarian principles, the decision has been taken to suspend our search and rescue activities in the Central Mediterranean.”

4 September 2017, 6:11pm
MOAS has rescued over 2000 in April alone
MOAS has rescued over 2000 in April alone
MOAS, an organisation dedicated to the rescue of migrants at sea, has decided to cease its Mediterranean operations and redeploy to South East Asia due to uncertainty as to the fate of the people it is rescuing.

Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) was founded in 2014 as the first search and rescue operation of its kind, determined to mitigate the loss of human life on deadly maritime migration routes.

Three years after its first rescue, MOAS has saved and assisted over 40,000 children, women and men fleeing violence, poverty and persecution. The organisatin's efforts to safeguard the most vulnerable people have been recognised, most recently by the Atlantic Council.

MOAS launched its 2017 Central Mediterranean Mission on 1st April 2017, rescuing over 2,000 people in April alone.

In a statement, the organisation says its crew have growing challenges, including the increasing overcrowding of the vessels and the deteriorating physical condition of the people rescued.

“Despite these challenges, during this mission the MOAS crew have rescued and assisted 7,826 people, all the while observing and monitoring the increasingly complex context in the Mediterranean. MOAS also signed the Code of Conduct proposed by the Italian government, confirming its will to cooperate.”

But the organisation said the situation on the Libyan coast was now unclear and this was detrimental to the most vulnerable people there.

“MOAS does not want to become part of a mechanism where there is no guarantee of safe harbour or welcome for those being assisted and rescued at sea. In this context, and on the basis of our humanitarian principles, the decision has been taken to suspend our search and rescue activities in the Central Mediterranean.”

MOAS said it was nevertheless determined to continue its humanitarian activities wherever they are most needed.

The move was also partially in response to a call, made by Pope Francis in August, for an international response to the escalating Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

“As in 2014 when we followed Pope Francis’ appeal to assist migrants along the fatal Mediterranean route, today we are renewing our commitment in the Bay of Bengal.

Building on MOAS’ long-standing dedication to alleviating the plight of the persecuted Rohingya minority, MOAS is therefore undertaking a strategic shift of its operations to South East Asia.

From there, MOAS will deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance and aid to the Rohingya people, and will work to provide a platform for transparency, advocacy and accountability in the region where a deadly exodus is unfolding on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

In the meantime, MOAS will continue to monitor global migration trends and will maintain situation awareness in the Mediterranean, ready to react to any change that would allow it to resume operations in line with its core humanitarian principles. Since the beginning of its operations, MOAS recognised that search and rescue is not the solution to the ongoing migration crisis, and will continue to advocate and lobby for the creation of safe and legal routes for those most vulnerable and in need of international protection.“