On Monday morning I joined a group of local and international journalists for the inaugural trip of Moas, the first private migrant rescue mission in Europe.
By the time I returned to the office, there were streams of comments on online forums and social media posted by individuals deriding this wonderful initiative – practically all the comments had one thing in common: misinformation.
Scores of other comments were so hateful and racist towards migrants that they were not uploaded on our forum. It’s the usual cliché – any story with the word ‘migrants’ in the title instantly elicits the usual army of people making the most absurd claims, often without bothering to read beyond the first paragraph.
But the icing on the cake came just hours later when it was known that Moas’ first rescue last night was not a boatful of desperate black people but a fisherman and his son. And guess what: they were Maltese! It was dramatic irony at its best.
Because you see, for many of us, the lives of two Maltese are certainly worth more than the lives of hundreds of desperate black people fleeing persecution and poverty. Some of us think that asylum seekers chose their destiny by jumping into the boat in the first place.
The fisherman has nobody else to thank than Chris and Regina Catrambone, the couple behind Moas, who are nothing short than modern day heroes. They heeded an appeal made by Pope Francis a year ago when he urged entrepreneurs to do their bit in saving lives at sea. The Lampedusa tragedies in October sealed their determination to do something about it.
The Catrambones put their money where their mouth is, invested several millions into buying a boat, manned it with paramedics and equipped it with drones, to try to save migrants at sea.
Backed by our former army chief Martin Xuereb (who certainly knows the rules of the sea), the Catrambones are not embarking on such an initiative to bring droves of black people to Malta. Their intention is merely to track down migrants’ boats in distress and provide them with medication and lifejackets if needed. When they do that, all they will do is alert the Italian or Maltese rescue authorities. They are not picking up dozens of migrants and depositing them at our doorstep. They are not holding big signs in the open sea pointing in the direction of Malta.
Millions of other rich people ignored the Pope’s appeal. Millions of other people who know better are simply fanning the flames. We are in a situation where with the odd exception, the Church is conspicuously silent on the worrying rate of racism in Malta.
Because, you know what, it’s much easier to go with the mainstream and to ramble on about the usual stereotypes. It’s easier to refuse to learn the basics of why many people are forced to leave their country. It’s not easy to do what the Catrambones did – because that is certainly not mainstream.
If you want to help Moas, go to www.moas.eu.
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