Lampedusa tragedy marks start of deadly 2015 – MOAS

With reduced presence in 2015 by the EU’s Frontex, MOAS predicts record deaths in 2015

Photo: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Photo: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Photo: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Photo: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Photo: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Photo: MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

This week’s tragedy off Lampedusa where 29 migrants are reported to have died of hypothermia after being rescued from an inflatable boat marks the beginning of a deadly 2015, MOAS has warned.

Migrant Offshore Aid Station is a private rescue foundation that assisted some 3,000 migrants in the summer of 2014 using a 40-metre vessel M.Y. Phoenix, two RHIBS and two Schiebel camcopters, as well as a crew of experienced rescuers and paramedics.

MOAS director, Brig. (Ret’d) Martin Xuereb said: “This tragedy is a stark reminder of two crucial points. Firstly, migrant crossings are continuing through winter despite rough seas and dire weather conditions. Secondly, without Italy’s rescue mission Mare Nostrum, search and rescue in the Mediterranean is inadequate.

“The restricted Frontex mission effectively takes the situation back to what it was in October 2013 when hundreds of migrants died preventable deaths. It is actually worse, because we are only now feeling the full impact of the displacement of people from Syria and other conflict zones.”

 MOAS warned that the reduced search and rescue efforts by the EU and its member states effectively placed a bigger burden on the commercial, military and civilian boats which may be ill-equipped and unprepared to deal with search and rescue effectively.

“The most tragic element of this latest disaster is that the migrants died after they had been rescued, many from hypothermia due to being exposed on deck,” Brig. Xuereb added.

Xuereb also added that the migrant tragedy dispels the myth that would-be refugees are attracted by rescue vessels. This, he said, was a fictional narrative.

“Migrants are being pushed to leave their homes, not pulled towards Europe. They are getting onto boats in rough seas and freezing weather, knowing that the rescue missions have stopped. This is their last resort,” he said.

MOAS, founded by Italo-American couple Christopher and Regina Catrambone, is currently on a mission to raise funds to ensure a beefed up six-month presence in the Mediterranean this year to respond to the increase in refugees and the winding down of other rescue missions.

Last year, 3,419 men, women and children died while making the dangerous crossing to Europe in unseaworthy boats, mostly by drowning or dehydration.

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