Fourth aid group halts Mediterranean rescue operations

TMP – 15/09/2017

A fourth Mediterranean search and rescue organisation has announced that it will halt migrant rescue operations, citing security concerns and “increasing instability”.

The Malta based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which was founded in 2014, has saved the lives of an estimated 40,000 migrants in the Mediterranean.

MOAS, the first privately-funded rescue ship in the Mediterranean, is the fourth group to stop rescue operations for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.

Last month, Doctors Without Borders (also known as Medecins sans Frontieres) followed by Save the Children and Germany’s Sea Eye all suspended operations. They said their crews could no longer work safely because of the hostility of the Libyan coastguard.

On 4 September MOAS cited an “increasingly complex context” for its decision to suspend operations to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean. It will instead redeploy its flagship, the Phoenix, to the Bay of Bengal to help Rohingya refugees who are fleeing to Bangladesh from violence in Myanmar.

“We no longer have a definite knowledge that they will be taken to a safe port, and we don’t want to rescue migrants and then be forced to return them to Libya, giving them a false hope.” said Regina Catrambone, who co founded MOAS with her husband.

“MOAS does not want to become part of a scenario where no one pays attention to the people who deserve protection, instead only focusing on preventing them from arriving on European shores with no consideration of their fate when trapped on the other side of the sea,” Catrambone said.

Recently, the Libyan coastguard, which has received equipment and training from the Italian navy to help curb the flow of migrants, has been taking increasingly aggressive measures against aid groups.

The Italian and Libyan authorities have also accused the aid groups of encouraging smugglers to send migrants across the Mediterranean in flimsy and overcrowded boats, in the belief that they will be rescued at sea.