A multimillionaire couple has bought a boat and are using it to save thousands of desperate migrants crossing from Africa to Europe.
Christopher and Regina Catrambone, a couple who made millions in the insurance business, were on vacation on the Italian island of Lampedusa, both a popular vacation spot and an important point of entry for migrants from Africa.
Shortly after hearing from locals about the tragedies that occur as desperate migrants use unsafe methods to cross the sea, the Catrambones read that Pope Francis urged more international action to save the migrants.
“Jesus Christ is always waiting to be recognised in migrants and refugees, in displaced persons and in exiles, and through them he calls us to share our resources, and occasionally to give up something of our acquired riches,” the Holy Father of the Catholic Church said in one sermon.
The Catrambones were moved by their personal experience and the pope’s call to action.
The couple decided that this crisis demanded their attention. So, they bought a Canadian fishing boat named the Phoenix and retrofitted it to become the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, or MOAS for short.
“MOAS consists of international humanitarians, security professionals, medical staff, and experienced maritime officers who have come together to prevent further catastrophes at sea,” the organization’s website says.
Over the last year, 100,000 migrants have entered Europe, and about 2,000 died at sea.
Many migrants have resorted to human traffickers to reach Europe, similar to how many aliens illegally seeking entry into the United States rely on “coyotes.”
The European Union launched a massive navy operation to deal with the crisis, but some member states have grumbled about having to deal with the migrants when they reach Europe.
MOAS is staffed by about 20 crew at any given time. They use drones to seek out migrants in trouble and then deploy inflatable boats to distribute food and water. If any of the migrants need medical attention, a team from Doctors Without Borders is on board at the ready.
The group is very clear, however, that the goal is not to ferry migrants from one continent to another, but merely to prevent further loss of life at sea.
In 2014 alone, MOAS saved at least 3,000 migrants who likely would have died if not for their rescuers.
The Catrambones have spent about $8 million of their own personal fortune rescuing migrants, and they continue to spend more each day.
MOAS accepts donations from the general public, which go toward the purchase of medical and food supplies, upkeep of the Phoenix, and other costs associated with the operation.