Search and rescue charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) will launch a new rescue mission in the Aegean Sea where thousands of primarily Syrian refugees continue to cross every week from Turkey to Greece in unsafe vessels.
As the winter season approaches and casualty rates climb, MOAS will position the 51-meter Topaz Responder, a custom-made emergency response vessel in Greek territorial waters to act as a fast response and patrol search and vessel.
The Topaz Responder will host two high-speed rescue vessels on board capable of being launched rapidly or kept on patrol. The two rescue boats will be named Aylan and Galip, in honour of the Kurdi brothers whose deaths shocked the world in September.
MOAS is also establishing a new operation in South East Asia as well as renewing its mission in the central Mediterranean Sea, where the NGO saved almost 12,000 lives since August 2014.
The announcement was made just before the Valletta Summit where EU and African leaders are meeting to discuss migration.
“We are expanding thanks to the overwhelming support we have received from all over the world in the past months. We now plan to have a presence in all three major migrant crossing routes. Each life we save is a testament to everybody who has donated to turn MOAS into the global NGO it is today,” said Christopher Catrambone, who founded MOAS together with his wife Regina Catrambone.
“All the MOAS missions will be distinct due to the different realities in each area of operation. The common thread is that each mission will seek to prevent more deaths at sea. We will work collaboratively with all stakeholders in each region as we have done successfully in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014,” said Martin Xuereb, director of MOAS.
More than 500 people, including many children, are estimated to have drowned already this year trying to reach the Greek shores. Officials leading rescue efforts on the Greek island of Lesbos have recently warned the death toll in the eastern Aegean Sea is likely to rise unless urgent action is taken.
Meanwhile, in South East Asia, the onset of the sailing season is expected to push thousands of people out to sea.
MOAS, which was launched in 2014, began as a small NGO with one vessel, M.Y. Phoenix, which has so far already saved 11,685 people from perilous conditions in the Central Mediterranean.