Valletta Harbour: the first milestone

We’ve reached another milestone in getting our Migrant Offshore Aid Station project going. On Friday evening, just over three weeks since the Phoenix I left Virginia Harbor, our boat has safely arrived in Valletta. A brief refueling pause midway in the Azores was welcome by the crew. Bravo! for their courage and high spirits.

As the vessel sailed past the Valletta breakwater for the final homestretch past the historic bastions, I could not help thinking how this harbor has been a safe haven to many through the ages.

I love this place, and I’m glad it’s been my home for the past 7 years. Somehow, a boat sailing into harbor always makes me think: ‘hope’. It is hope that drives desperate boat people to take the treacherous sea journey to reach Europe.

As many as 23,000 people are believed to have perished when their vessels sank in the Mediterranean over the past 15 years. The tragic reality is that these shipwreck victims are people fleeing violence or persecution in their homelands.

The UNHCR’s Global Trends Report 2013 published on World Refugee Day last week revealed that the forcibly displaced – including refugees, asylum seekers and the internally displaced – exceeded 50 million for the first time in the post World War II era. The bulging numbers are attributed to the increased incidence of violent conflict around the world: failure to resolve protracted conflicts and prevent new ones.

As long as conflicts persist, refugees will risk their lives to flee violence and certain death.

The MOAS project was conceived to do what no other NGO was doing: help migrants survive their perilous voyage and prevent loss of life at sea.

As soon as Phoenix I is ready and the trials are done, it will depart for the first expedition in the central Mediterranean, where it will locate and assist vessels in distress with life jackets, food and water, and medical assistance.

It’s time to act.