The Phoenix migrant offshore aid station (MOAS) returns to Malta, from another successful rescue mission

Knowing how much dedication and hard work the whole crew, and MSF (Medecins sans Frontieres) – along with photojournalist, Jason Florio –  had put into yet another successful mission, I was honoured, to be able to watch, from the vantage point of one of Malta’s ancient ‘Three Cities’,  Birgu, as the Phoenix glided into the Grand Harbour, yesterday.

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The Phoenix pulling into Bezzina Boat Yard, Marsa – Image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

The MOAS owned vessel (migrant offshore aid station) was returning from Sicily, after disembarking, for the fourth time in their three week mission, another boat full of rescued migrants. from the Bouri oil fields area – which lie about 40km off the coast of Libya, in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Then, a quick dash through the back streets of Malta (thanks to Charlie, the MOAS driver, whose Maltese style of driving invariably brings the the contents of my stomach up to my throat!) towards the Bezzina Boat Yard , to catch the Phoenix as it docked, and the crew disembarking, smiles, laughter – and a few tears – happy to be welcomed by family and friends. And, perhaps with some relief, to have a little respite from the exhaustive, and often emotionally-charged, rescues of hundreds of men, women, children, and babies  – many of whom, openly sharing their hellacious experiences of war, persecution, rape, abduction, and extortion. And, then, to be pushed out to sea  – for many, their first time ever on open water – in battered, old, wooden fishing boats, originally made to hold a small crew of fishermen, not the 400 plus people, crammed onto (and below the decks of) most of them.

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Helen Jones-Florio

 

Related post: Rare photographs document the rescue of hundred of migrant – images © MOAS_EU/Jason Florio

Photo of the Day: The smiles say it all – rescued boat migrants from Eritrea- Image © Jason Florio/MOAS-eu

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Instagram image © Jason Florio/MOAS-eu – May 4th, 2015, aboard the Phoenix – Migrant Offshore Aid Station

 

For regular updates, on the ongoing MOAS_eu rescue mission in the Mediterranean, please follow twitter feeds: @floriophotonyc; @RYP_, and @moas_eu Or our floriotravels Instagram page

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MOAS Migrant Boat Rescue No.1 & 2 – off the coast of Libya – Images ©Jason Florio/MOAS

369 migrants rescued by MOAS after being spotted by the Schielble Camera Copter
369 migrants rescued by MOAS after being spotted by the Schielble Camera Copter

 

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.euJF

MOAS rescuies 361 migrants after spotting them with the Schielble camera copter
MOAS rescuies 361 migrants after spotting them with the Schielble camera copter

 

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.

 

MOAS rescuies 361 migrants after spotting them with the Schielble camera copter
MOAS rescuies 361 migrants after spotting them with the Schielble camera copter

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.

Helen Jones-Florio

Currently basing out of West Africa, with Jason Florio

 

Photographer, Jason Florio, flies into Malta, preparing to join MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station)

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Image © Jason Florio – flying into Malta

 

MOAS – Migrant Offshore Aid Station, based in Malta:  dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing assistance to migrants who find themselves in distress while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels… Read more about the incredible work that MOAS do here.

Last year, the charity helped to save 3,000 migrants during a 60 day mission. Photographer, Jason Florio, flew into Malta earlier last week, in preparation to join the MOAS team, on their boat, ‘Phoenix’, which departs Malta tomorrow, Saturday 2nd May, on it’s first rescue mission of this year.

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Image courtesy of Robert Young Pelton’s FB page

 

I’ll be updating the progress of the Phoenix, as and when I get news from Florio. In light of the last couple of weeks – far too many lives lost so tragically – in the Mediterranean, and the astonishing increase in migrants making the perilous crossing so far this year (‘over 10,100 in the first three months of 2015UNHCR),  it will be a journey worth following.

HJF