Search and rescue charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) has assisted hundreds of refugees from hostile seas between Turkey and Greece since it began operating in the region just before Christmas.
The organization said its crew has witnessed shocking scenes of life and death, having led complex deep water and nearshore rescues over the past four weeks. The human toll has been described as “distressing” and “desperate” by reporters who have been embedded with MOAS.
“MOAS, which saved almost 12,000 refugees from the Mediterranean Sea since 2014, expanded its operations to the Aegean Sea thanks to thousands of donations that reached the organisation after the horrific death of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler who was photographed washed ashore on a Turkish beach last September.”
The charity is operating off the Greek island of Agathonisi from a 51-metre vessel equipped with two fast rescue launches named after Alan and his brother Galip, who also died in September’s shipwreck.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 2016 appears to be a record year for both refugee arrivals and deaths at sea. In the first three weeks, fatalities have already reached 113, which is more than the past two Januaries combined. In the same three-week period, some 37,000 migrants and refugees have reached Italy and Greece by sea, which is 10 times the total of 2015.
“What we are witnessing in the Aegean Sea is even more horrendous than what we experienced in the Mediterranean. Due to the shorter distances, smugglers take increased risks at the expense of the refugees, often giving them worthless lifejackets and inflatable boats that simply cannot reach shore. Despite worsening weather conditions, refugees continue to make the desperate crossing, many times finding themselves washed onto jagged rocks and sustaining serious injuries,” said MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone.
“It is thanks to donations from the general public that we are able to remain at sea saving lives. A donation to MOAS will keep us at sea for longer and that could mean the difference between life and death for many Syrian refugee families fleeing war and persecution. Having established an excellent working relationship with the Hellenic Coast Guard in a short period of time, we are proud to be keeping the memory of Alan Kurdi alive together with the support of people all over the world who agree that nobody deserves to die at sea,” said MOAS director Martin Xuereb.
MOAS is working closely with a number of other NGOs, including doctors from CISOM and rescue swimmers from Lagan Search and Rescue.
Donations to MOAS can be made here: www.moas.eu/donate