After nearly 400 migrants drowned in Lampedusa, Italy, in 2013, Regina and Christopher Catrambone were moved to act. They bought a boat, equipped it with a crew and founded MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), a charity dedicated to saving lives at sea, in Malta. To date, the organization has rescued and assisted more than 40,000 people in the Mediterranean and the Aegean.
When someone is truly altruistic, they don’t expect rewards, gratitude or even praise from their peers. This is how Christopher and Regina, a married Italian-American couple have chosen to live their lives. They are examples of that exceptional group of society’s members that cares deeply about other humans, especially those who are suffering. Empathy, love, and solidarity are perhaps the qualities that best define them.
A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Christopher Catrambone is a passionate humanitarian and adventurer, but also an entrepreneur. In 2006, he founded the Tangiers Group, a now prestigious global firm specializing in insurance, emergency assistance, claims handling and intelligence services. His wife, Regina Catrambone, was born and raised in Southern Italy and is on the Tangiers Group’s Board of Directors.
Having worked on the frontiers of what is likely the most devastating humanitarian catastrophe of our generation, MOAS calls for solutions that ensure that those seeking asylum can do so without risking their lives.
Regina and Christopher hope that their humanitarian initiative will inspire others (especially international governments, corporations, and organizations) and help dispel what Pope Francis calls the “globalization of indifference,” a feeling shared by people around the world that there are people so dispossessed that it is not even worth worrying about them. “We believe it’s time for the world to realize that we cannot hide from this reality. The migrant and refugee crisis is a global phenomenon that requires collective action by world leaders, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations,” says Regina.
MOAS was the first NGO to set sail in the Central Mediterranean with the aim of rescuing migrants and refugees who were making the dangerous trip from Libya to Italy. In September 2015, following the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi, a small, 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body floated ashore in Turkey, MOAS expanded its operations by chartering the second vessel and sending it to the Aegean Sea on December 23, 2015. There, in the cold and dangerous waters, the crew rescued 1,869 refugees of predominantly Syrian descent
As MOAS crews have witnessed unprecedented deaths, the NGO has been steadfastly advocating for the creation of safe and legal alternatives to the deadly sea crossing. Having worked on the frontiers of what is likely the most devastating humanitarian catastrophe of our generation, MOAS calls for solutions that ensure that those seeking asylum can do so without risking their lives.
On April 1, 2017, MOAS launched its fifth search and rescue mission in the Central Mediterranean with a single ship, the Phoenix (a SAR vessel that MOAS has been using since 2014), but now for the first time, they have the help of a patrolling aircraft, which provides a larger range and is equipped for better detection of vessels in danger.
Despite the fact that some have expressed skepticism about MOAS since the company has chosen a tax haven like Malta for its headquarters, the reality is that the NGO is saving thousands of lives with its work. ■
For more information about MOAS, or to make a donation, please visit: MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station)
PHOTOS: © Robert Young Pelton / MOAS.