Photographer, Jason Florio, May 4th, 2015, presently on route to Sicily, with hundreds of migrants – including men, women, children, babies – after being involved in two rescue missions just off the coast of Libya, over the weekend:
‘I left Malta just over 24 hours ago on board the Migrant Offshore Aid Station MOAS ship, The Phoenix, and headed into the Mediterranean sea towards Libya – Within that short time the team has already rescued 469 migrants from two vessels – Its an intense experience, and rings close to home as so many of the people the team rescued (on the second boat) were from Gambia. Big Thanks to Robert Young Pelton for getting me on board. www.moas.eu ‘ JF
I can imagine the Gambians, on the second boat (rubber dinghy, in this case, holding 109 people) MOAS rescued, surprise at being greeted in Mandinka, one of their local languages, by a man in a protective, bright white (Hazmat) suit and mask, wielding a big camera (Jason Florio) – “they were happy to hear their own language, one man said” Florio told me. I truly hope it gave them a little comfort in what is clearly a harrowing, and extremely dangerous, journey which will continue way beyond being dropped off on foreign soil.
Once the Phoenix drops the rescued migrants in Sicily tomorrow morning, the crew will head back out towards Libya again, to carry on their rescue mission. Wishing them a safe onwards and, in the words of Robert Young Pelton, today: “Kudos to the crew of #MOAS and #MSF for 19 straight hours of hard work”
For a continuous updates on the progress of MOAS and their ongoing mission, follow @RYP_ and @MOAS-eu, I’ll also be updating regularly on the @floriophotoNYC account and here on the blog.
A good friend of mine posted a comment on her FB page yesterday, in response to some of the disturbing comments, about the migrant and refugee crisis, left on another FB page: ‘I’m not mean but let them in will be the end of gsy it’s hard for locals to live now all most of them will do is go on the dole and get free houses let there govoment sort it out in stead of putting all the money they get in there pockets so they have a good life and there people go with OUT’ JB of the Channel Islands. My friend asked if I would comment, as my husband, photojournalist, Jason Florio, has recently been documenting the boat rescues for MOAS, onboard the Phoenix, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.
I saw your FB post earlier, S., and, yes, it makes me extremely sad, and aghast, that people can be so myopic and so grossly uninformed – to put it politely. And, I did think twice about posting this link from Migrant Report : ‘The Pictures That Need to Be Seen‘ (caution – the images are truly shocking and devastating). But, in light of some of the comments I read on the above mentioned FB page, I believe the images should be seen, if only to wake, shake, up some of the commentators.
As you know, S., Florio has been documenting, for MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), onboard the Phoenix, their boat rescue missions in the Mediterranean; thankfully, he didn’t witness this particular horrific incident, but some of his colleagues have – and it’s not the first time they have either. Before Florio began working with MOAS, I was horrified by the news reports… how the hell could parents be so irresponsible as to take their babies and small children – and, in some cases, send their 14 year son, completely alone – on such a dangerous and life-threatening journey?! It was completely beyond my comprehension. However, I have since watched numerous interviews Florio has recorded, post-rescue, onboard the Phoenix – with many migrants and refugees – and the consensus is that the majority (particularly those from Syria, for example) would have done anything not to leave their homes, their professions – many are lawyers, doctors, nurses – behind and/or risk the lives of their whole family, to venture into the complete unknown. But, when your life is in constant danger; you live under a brutal dictatorship; you are forced to join the National Service at any early age, for an indeterminate amount of time, paid very poorly – and not allowed to leave until you are too old to follow your life ambition to be i.e. a doctor (Google: Eritrea); your basic human rights are ignored (Google: Ethiopia); the list goes on – there is often little choice, other than to move on, to find a better life.
Is that so difficult to comprehend? Maybe so, for those of us lucky enough to have the freedom to sit comfortably each day, eating our three square meals, as we watch the 6 o’clock (mostly edited just so, so as not to offend – too much) news, from the safety of our homes, through the impenetrable barrier of a screen; without the perpetual worry of a bomb dropping on your home, or your children being fatally wounded by shrapnel, whilst out playing in the street… . Imagine that. And, yes, we can argue the fact that the countries where thousands, upon thousands are fleeing from (the numbers are staggering) need to address what is going on, the people smugglers need to be stopped, and so on… but all of this will take time, a long time, to even begin to put right. In the meantime, these thousands of people men – women, children, babies – are on a survival mission, and they need sanctuary now, after having left behind everything that is familiar to them; often taking little more than a memento of their home with them (such as a letter from loved one, a tattered copy of the Koran, protected by a plastic bag, a postage stamp, a local coin – all real things, that people have shown Florio, during interviews). And, don’t even get me started on what they have to go through, even before they pay thousands of dollars to get on one of those nowhere-near-seaworthy-enough-to-make-it-to-Italy-boats!, out of lawless Libya… this subject is well documented. Just check out more of the links on Migrant Report, and, in time, through some of the interviews Florio has conducted (just think rape – on both men and women – torture, kidnapping, imprisonment, starvation, forced unpaid labour), for a forthcoming documentary from MOAS.
The images of dead children are shocking beyond belief and have been condemned by many as ‘sensationalism’, ‘headline-grabbing‘, ‘emotive‘… . Yet, the reality is, is that this is happening on an almost daily basis, out there in the Mediterranean, and many of the people fleeing towards a ‘better life‘ are already aware of the immense dangers they face, and possible death. Again, how can we (us, the ones who watch the teatime news, as another tragedy at sea unfolds, from our comfortable armchairs) possibly comprehend what propels people to take their whole family, walk out their front door, with just the clothes that they are wearing, and – in many cases – walk across deserts, other countries, to take such unimaginable risks?
So, perhaps now it is time to take the kid gloves off and face the harsh reality, see those images close up… . After all, it’s nowhere near (nowhere near!) the utter wretchedness that many, many people are enduring every single day, in an attempt to find that better life.
“Some of them were a little bit nervous when they saw the HMS Bulwark show up on the horizon,” Florio said from aboard the organization’s 130-foot ship, the Phoenix. “But I think they were just thankful they weren’t floating around in a rubber dinghy anymore.” Jason Florio. MOAS, 2015 migrant rescues, on-board photographer, talks about transferring migrants, rescued by MOAS, to HMS Bulwark. Read more, and see more of Florio’s images, on the VICE News website.
Three migrant women intoxicated by fuel fumes are taken onto the merchant vessel Orient Green by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) search and rescue team.
They were aboard a rubber dinghy carrying 104 migrants (predominantly Gambians, from West Africa) who were later also all transferred onto the Orient Green by MOAS after being given life jackets and water.
They were not transferred onto the Phoenix because the vessel already had 369 people on board and was therefore already overloaded.
MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone was the lead rescuer on this mission.