The Frontex Failure

Operation Triton has failed. We must do more. With 2015 promising to be the deadliest year on record for migrant drowning, the EU response is at its smallest and least effective.

On Wednesday, February 11, three hundred more migrants died at sea. While the Italian Coast Guard dispatched ships from Lampedusa, the merchant ship charged with monitoring the distressed dinghies couldn’t safely board passengers due to high wind and waves. Once help arrived, the open boats offered little protection from the elements, and 29 more people died on the way to shore.

With just five aircraft and seven vessels, Operation Triton is not even a migrant rescue program. It is a 2.9 million Euro a month program responsible for guarding the 7,600km long coast of Italy. Although long range aircraft is in the air, the mandate of Triton ships is to patrol within 30 nautical miles of Italy’s shores.

In 2015, 2.5 million square kilometres of sea will be unpatrolled by any government-mandated search and rescue operation, including the waters off Libya that claimed 300 lives last week.

According to the UNHCR, over 200,000 people received help during the sea crossing in 2014. Over 3,200 didn’t make it. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) suggests that this is only the beginning. It is clear the onus will be on ships and sailors who are not prepared to handle mass rescues and the resultant casualties.

Differing agendas are pulling Operation Triton apart. The operation has neither the manpower nor the resources to handle the duties Mare Nostrum formerly filled.

Last October, Mare Nostrum was cancelled in part due to assertions that the operation encouraged more migrants to make the voyage. But this is simply not true. The IOM reports up to 400 migrant deaths have occurred since the beginning of 2015. By this time last year only 27 people had died. The 1481% increase in deaths this year tells me that cancelling Mare Nostrum has not only failed to deter migrants but we are in for very grim news this year.

When I saw what was happening to people crossing the Mediterranean, I knew I had to do something. There were charities helping migrants in Africa, and charities helping landed migrants, but there were no NGOs helping in the most dangerous part, the sea crossing. I started MOAS as a response to Pope Francis’ call to arms. This week he again urged action: ‘I wish to assure my prayers for the victims and once again encourage solidarity so that no one is without necessary aid’ he said.

I wanted to stop the deaths at sea. So I and a group of professionals founded MOAS.

Last year MOAS rescued 3,000 migrants in distress. Men, women and children forced by humanitarian or economic reasons cross the deadliest border in the world: the Mediterranean Sea. We are getting ready to head out in May and we need your help to get funded. No one deserves to die at sea.

MOAS has proved they can respond, coordinate and assist in Search and Rescue. We are looking to fund the 2015 season and look forward to discussing this topic further. Contact me at