Mediterranean: Grandmaster calls for action! Order of Malta - Permanent Observer Mission

22/04/2015

Mediterranean: Grandmaster calls for action!

Fra’ Matthew Festing calls for immediate action on Mediterranean migrant crisis

Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, in acknowledging the work of the Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Corps (CISOM) so deeply involved in the current migrant crisis off the coast of southern Italy, declared: ‘This shocking loss of life and this callous smuggling must stop. It behoves all civilised nations of every belief to set in place appropriate measures to help the desperate but also to exhort these criminals to cease their dreadful activities.

‘The Order of Malta has been working since 2008 with the Italian Coastguard, Guardia di Finanza and the Italian navy, providing medical assistance to the thousands of boat people arriving on these shores. Neither the Coastguard nor the Order of Malta were prepared for the torrents of immigrants we are seeing in these desperate weeks.’

Rescue testimony of an Order of Malta doctor

Hundreds of people died on Sunday after a ship crowded with migrants capsized and sank in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast.

Giuseppe Pomilla, one of the Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Corps doctors on duty that night, described the three hours he searched for the living among hundreds of dead corpses at sea: ‘It was like a nightmare. It was a cemetery. There were bodies everywhere you looked.

‘At first it seemed there was no one alive. It was 1am and the sea was black. With my torch I could see only two or three metres ahead of the dinghy. But it was easy to see if people were dead because when you die of asphyxia your eyes go red.

‘Everywhere were these red eyes, all young men. Most were in t-shirts and normal clothes but some were naked. Maybe the current washed their clothes away.’

In 2014, approximately 220,000 refugees and migrants sailed across the Mediterranean, with most having to be rescued by the Italian Navy, Coast Guard or merchant ships.