By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 13 July 2014:
A Malta-based philanthropist couple has responded to the October Lampedusa shipwrecks that killed around 700 . . .[restrict]illegal migrants en route to Europe largely from Libya by funding and commissioning their own private rescue boat and crew.
It has been reported by the Times of Malta that the couple was moved to do something after a visit by Pope Francis to Malta, where he condemned the deaths as shameful and called on citizens to respond in any way they could.
That was when Christopher and Regina Catrambone got the idea to set up the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).
Nine months ago, they began the process of purchasing and equipping a 43-metre vessel, the Phoenix 1, which will be manned by a professional crew, including paramedics.
The Catrambones have also supplied the vessel with two drones with mounted cameras, allowing the crew to watch over large areas of the sea.
Though the final cost of the project has not yet been determined, the couple has spent millions of euros from their own pocket to fund the project.
The couple has expressed that they realise that there may be more efficient ways to contribute to the cause, but the pope’s admonition to do more than write a check resonated with them and they felt that they needed to be personally involved.
Also aware that there are government-funded vessels already out on the waters engaging in rescue missions, the Catrambones have said that they hope to be viewed as partners with the common goal of saving lives, rather than as competition.
This news comes just days after 12 decomposing bodies of what were believed to be illegal migrants were found on a Tripoli beach.
In fact, with stories coming out weekly of overflowing detention centres, migrants found in the middle of the desert and unseaworthy vessels packed with asylum seekers capsizing at sea, the problem of illegal migration appears to be out of control and growing in Libya.
Because of its lack of resources to deal with the problem, Libya is seen as an attractive route for Africans trying to make their way to Europe. Just last week, Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni called on the EU for help in putting a stop to illegal migration, but the road ahead will be long. [/restrict]