Former AFM commander heads life-saving operation for migrants

Retired Brigadier Martin Xuereb will lead humanitarian effort to locate migrant boats in distress in Mediterranean sea

Brigadier Martin Xuereb (right) will lead MOAS in its life-saving mission
Brigadier Martin Xuereb (right) will lead MOAS in its life-saving mission

Former Armed Forces of Malta commander Martin Xuereb has joined forces with a group of international humanitarians - the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) - in response to the recent tragedies off the coast of Lampedusa.

The centre of operations is based in Malta, and Xuereb is the director and leader of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which is made up of security professionals, medical staff and experienced maritime operators.

"We are passionate about the plight of migrants and the dangerous challenges they face as they try to find a life free of violence," the organisation said on its website.

MOAS states that its goal is to "reduce human suffering in any legal way possible" but that it wil not transport or assist in transporting migrants, and instead use its resources to "locate and treat suffering humans desperate for a better life."

Between July and October of 2014, the MOAS team will sail its 40-metre (130-ft) expedition vessel Phoenix I to major migrant shipping lanes and set anchor. From this fixed point the crew will monitor the area using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) and human lookouts to spot migrant vessels in distress.

"Once a migrant vessel is spotted, its location will be radioed to the appropriate authorities whilst MOAS crew members, including an Arabic-speaking doctor, will assess the needs of the migrants via Fast Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boats (RIB). RIBs will be stocked with water, non-perishable food, life jackets, blankets and medical supplies for speedy distribution.

"If we encounter someone who needs urgent medical care, or if we spot a vessel in danger of sinking, we will stabilize the person or ship until the authorities arrive and better care becomes available."

Trained in Italy and the United Kingdom, Martin Xuereb studied at the Royal College of Defence Studies, and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In his 26-year military career, Xuereb oversaw many search and rescue missions as Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta.

Another former army man joining MOAS will be Marco Cauchi, serving as operations director and first officer. During his 20-year career with the Armed Forces of Malta he participated in search and rescue missions as Search Mission Coordinator and has rescued hundreds of boats. He served as Commanding Officer of a fleet of AFM patrol vessels.