Group Helps Rescue Hundreds of Refugees and Migrants From the Mediterranean in 2 Days

PHOTO: Refugees and Migrants being rescued in the Mediterranean in June 2016.Mathieu Willcocks/MOAS.eu 2016
Refugees and Migrants being rescued in the Mediterranean in June 2016.

A nonprofit search-and-rescue company founded by an American says it has saved nearly 500 refugees and migrants at risk of drowning, only two days after starting its latest mission in the Mediterranean.

“We have made contact with four boats since June 6, which amounts to 466 people,” a spokeswoman at MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) told ABC News.

This is not the first mission for MOAS, a non-governmental organization headquartered in Malta that’s fully funded by donations. ABC News was aboard one of its previous missions in 2015 and witnessed hundreds of people being rescued.

Now, MOAS has partnered with EMERGENCY NGO, a humanitarian organization that provides medical care, and the Italian Red Cross. They launched the new mission Monday.

Two vessels are operating as part of this mission: the Phoenix, equipped with two drones, and the Responder. They each have two high-speed rescue boats, a crew of seafarers, rescuers, doctors and paramedics, as well as a fully stocked clinic to provide emergency care.

MOAS believes it has rescued the lives of over 13,000 people since it started operating in 2014.

“No one deserves to die at sea and, yet, last month was one of the deadliest on record with as many as 1,000 having perished in the Mediterranean,” Louisiana native and MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone said in a statement.

The entrepreneur and humanitarian added: “Hundreds more will continue to die unless we bolster the professional search and rescue effort.”

Many others are involved in search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean.

The European Union recently extended by a year its Operation Sophia, a military operation aimed at fighting smuggling operations, led by the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean. The Italian Coast Guard, Frontex (European Border agency) and other nonprofits such as Doctors Without Borders are also actively helping with the search-and-rescue efforts.

“Europe is currently experiencing unprecedented migratory flows, driven by geopolitical and economic factors that will continue, and maybe intensify, over the coming years,” the EU commission said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the migration is “fueled by unscrupulous smugglers who seek to benefit from the desperation of the vulnerable.”

Despite such efforts, deaths in the Mediterranean Sea occur on a daily basis: More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, the United Nations said this week, with a record 2,814 people drowning since January.