This crowdfunder project could save thousands of refugee lives

While governments dither, Londoners are raising funds for a rescue boat


The migrant crisis has escalated dramatically in the last week. Last Wednesday, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) rescued 1,658 people in one day alone. It was their biggest day of operations on the Mediterranean, with 199 children rescued.

This has already been the deadliest year on record for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.  Autumn is a particularly difficult time to make the journey and there is no sign of the number of crossings slowing.

As record numbers of refugees wait in Calais, Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean, political leaders have been embroiled in debates over asylum seeker quotas, border control and attempts to shift responsibility from one state to another.

European leaders continue to see the migrant and refugee crisis as a wedge in a wider dilemma over the future of the European Union. Across the political spectrum, politicians are justifying their decisions on the need to ‘discourage risky journeys’ as David Cameron said, or to ensure they are not offering, in Viktor Orban’s words,  ‘an invitation for those who would like to come’.

While European leaders worry over the impression they might give to migrants, those undertaking the risky journey across the Mediterranean are unlikely to make the decision to risk their lives and the lives of their families based on the finer details of European policy, or indeed on first impressions. Over 2,500 people have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, and the numbers will continue to grow.

Ministers from all 28 EU member states are holding an emergency meeting on 14 September for an emergency meeting on to discuss the migration crisis and how to respond. While European leaders arrange their travel to Brussels, the public is taking matters into its own hands.

Young Londoners, frustrated at the slow response, have launched a crowdfunding campaign called People’s Armada which has been launched on Indiegogo to buy a search and rescue ship for immediate action in the Mediterranean by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

MOAS operates one of the only three rescue ships with MSF. Their ship, The Phoenix, has rescued 11,000 people in the last year alone, and has a team of six MSF staff on board to offer medical care. But MOAS operations are due to end on 31 October, cutting the number of rescue missions with MSF by a third. With so few search and rescue ships operating on the Mediterranean right now, another ship could double the number of people rescued.

This is not the first time that the public has stepped in to do what governments have been unable or unwilling to do in the Mediterranean. MOAS was initiated with investment from two members of the public who could not wait for governments to do their part, as they watched Mare Nostrum – the Italian government’s search and rescue mission – come to an end and other countries withdraw their operations over the past year.

People’s Armada is a movement by the public to raise €3 million in 10 days to buy and refit at least one new boat for MOAS. However, if it is successful, the ambition is much greater – to crowdfund for a fleet of ships for MOAS, quite literally a People’s Armada, to save more lives.

In the time it takes for European leaders to book their flights to Brussels, the public may have saved another 11,000 lives for the year ahead.

Who is behind it?

People’s Armada was established as a partnership between the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and a group of young Londoners with a campaigning background that were frustrated at the pace of the response to the Migrant Crisis. Our initial target of $3,000,000 is enough for MOAS to buy and refit one ship, but ultimately we aim to raise enough to send an armada of crowdfunded ships to save thousands of lives. All money raised goes directly to MOAS. Please join us here:

Vidhya Ramalingam leads research, advocacy and campaigns on migration and diversity

Want to read more posts like this? Then *sign-up to Look Left* and make sure you have the facts to rebut right-wing spin

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.