Rohingya refugees: Mediterranean rescuers prepared to assist once resources expanded

After being approached to see if it could offer a search and rescue for the Rohingya people in the seas off Myanmar, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) has released a statement explaining that while its current resources are limited to the Mediterranean Sea it hopes to provide rescue missions in other parts of the world once those resources are expanded. Presumably such missions, by MOAS – or in collaboration with other organisations (Medecins Sans Frontieres, Sea Shepherd, Fortify Rights, etc?) – could include the Andaman Sea and the seas off the coast of Australia.

Already there has been a warning that the Rohingya people are facing genocide. Last week the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) called for immediate help for the abandoned Rohingya people floating off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Concerns are growing over the fate of the starving Rohingya migrants, trapped on boats off Myanmar for almost two months. The United Nations says at least two-thousand Rohingya refugees, stranded on at least five boats near the Myanmar-Bangladesh coasts, are at risk of violence and food shortages. Others estimate than there are 8000 stranded at sea.

The Australian Government has refused to help. However, the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia have now, after international pressure,agreed to give temporary shelter to the Rohingya  migrants. Gambia has offered to resettle all Rohingya refugees. But will these ‘temporary’ offers be enough? And what of the continued plight of those Rohingya not at sea but suffering persecution?

Rohingya appeal to Australians:

(To donate to MOAS, go to:

Meanwhile, here is an update of the Mediterranean (non government) search and rescue operations…

(Note: above video is of a recent night time rescue operation carried out by MOAS.)

In 2014 more than 200,000 people crossed the Mediterranean to Europe to escape the various conflicts and war zones, with more than 3500 lives lost at sea. This year, already 30,000 have crossed the Mediterranean to seek safety and more than 1,750 people have died. The most dramatic events took place last month when 400 refugees drowned, with a further 800 drowned just a few days later. However, the statistics are unreliable as many of those who made the attempt have vanished, according to new research released by VU University Amsterdam.

On 13 May MSF search and rescue ship, Bourbon Argos, carried out its first mission, helping 477 people, mainly from Eritrea, off a small wooden boat. In its first two weeks of its Mediterranean operations MSF rescued over 1800 people at sea.

Since the beginning of May, MOAS carried out six separate rescues, providing shelter and life-jackets to 106 children, 211 women and 1,124 men on board the 40-metre (130 ft.) vessel M.Y. Phoenix. (MSF provided post-rescue assistance, including medical care.)

M.Y. Phoenix was expected to return to its home base in Malta for restocking on May 14th. However the crew decided to continue at sea as it detected an ageing wooden boat with 561 people on board, including 60 children. Hundreds of people, mostly from Eritrea, were at risk of suffocation crammed down below the deck of the 18-metre (59 ft.) wooden boat. Speaking about the latest rescue, MOAS founder and crew member Christopher Catrambone said: “Our search and rescue crew has never seen anything like it. People just kept coming up from the hold in an endless stream of humanity.” “Some of them have told us terrible stories of persecution and escape. These people have no freedom. They have nothing,” Catrambone said, adding that rescued migrants reported poor conditions and treatment from their time spent in Libya.

The largest rescue carried out by M.Y. Phoenix came just one day after the European Commission presented the European Agenda on Migration with new proposals to address the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. Close to 3,600 migrants were rescued from overcrowded boats sailing from Africa to Europe over a 48 hour period. As part of the operation, M.Y. Phoenix cooperated fully with Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and other vessels in the area, transferring a number of migrants to merchant vessels.

MOAS has estimated that since last August it has rescued over 3000 refugees.

Another Mediterranean rescue initiative – though smaller – is ‘Sea Watch’. Harald Hoeppner and friends bought a 100-year-old fishing cutter for £43,000. The boat headed for the Med last month and will be based at Malta. The ‘Sea Watch’ includes a doctor, a paramedic, a mechanic, an interpreter, and an electrical engineer – all volunteers. The boat can take on around 500 people, but Hoeppner plans to seek out migrant vessels then alert the coastguard to organise the actual rescue.

The surge in migrants crossing the Mediterranean prompted the EU Security Council to draft a resolution that would enable European countries to seize suspected people smuggling ships on the high seas or in Libya’s territorial waters. The armoury the EU agreed to deploy is about deterrence.

Here, courtesy of Statewatch, is the final statement by the EU Summit on what the EU should do about the migrants. Here is a Statewatch analysis of this strategy. Here is the Secret EU plan for a war on smugglers.


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1 Response to Rohingya refugees: Mediterranean rescuers prepared to assist once resources expanded

  1. Pingback: Australia and refugees: new Govt law leaves direct action as only option | UndercoverInfo

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