SINGAPORE: The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) on Monday (Sep 4) said it is relocating its flagship rescue vessel from Malta to the waters off Myanmar to help with the ongoing Rohingya crisis.
In a statement, MOAS’ co-founder and director Regina Catrambone said the ship Phoenix, which she said has helped save 40,000 children, women and men in the Mediterranean, will be “be redeployed for its second mission in the Bay of Bengal to deliver aid and to help and assist vulnerable people affected by the ongoing violence”.
She also added that the decision to redeploy the operation was also taken due to the “unclear” climate in Libya, which is the stepping-off point for most Mediterranean-bound migrants.
"At present, there are too many questions without an answer, and too many doubts about those trapped or forced back to Libya,” she wrote. "The horrific tales of those who survive depict a nightmare of abuse, violence, torture, kidnapping and extortion.”
She added: "MOAS does not want to become part of a scenario where no one pays attention to the people who deserve protection, instead only focusing on preventing them from arriving on European shores with no consideration of their fate when trapped on the other side of the sea."
According to MOAS, it has saved and assisted 7,826 lives in the Mediterranean in 2017.
"THE HUMANITARIAN NEED IS ESCALATING"
The Rohingya people have been defined as "the most persecuted minority in the world" by the United Nations.
The latest violence in Myanmar's northwestern Rakhine state began on Aug 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base.
The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of villagers to Bangladesh.
“On Aug 27, Pope Francis called on the international community to support our Rohingya brothers and sisters and to end their persecution and inter-communal clashes,” said Catrambone.
“As I write, there is a deadly exodus unfolding on the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
"In the past few days alone, thousands of stateless Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh to seek safety. Many have died fleeing, and the humanitarian need is escalating.”