L.M.: What are the contributions and what are the numbers that have characterized the activities carried out by the MOAS on the Mediterranean sea since the beginning of the rescue operations?
R.C.: MOAS was born in 2013 as an idea and pioneering project started by my family who intended to act in order to avoid unnecessary deaths at sea. On August of 2014 the project was materialized when the Phoenix took off for the first SAR mission: immediately we saved thousands of children, women and men. Strong in the support of an international donor community, which has become our great family, in 2015 we expanded our range of action to the Aegean through donations that came after the tragic death of little Aylan on the Turkish coast. So we also operated on that stretch of sea until the EU-Turkey agreement and the consequent reduction of departures. At that point we focused all our resources and our energy on the central Mediterranean route. From August of 2014 to August of 2017 MOAS has rescued and assisted over 40000 children, women and men who risk drowning on overcrowded and dilapidated boats. Since September we are active in Bangladesh and we operate within two Aid stations in Shamlapur and Uchiprang, treating and assisting the Rohingya minority fleeing from Myanmar and the local Bengali community that is accepting them, maintaining an average of about 300 patients at day to station. At the end of December around 30.000 people had already received cares and medical assistance, while a boy and a girl were born in our structures, guaranteeing to the mothers a sure and dignified birth and regular post-natal treatment. In addition we have delivered to the Bangladeshi government 40 tons of humanitarian aid (alimentary and not) to support it in the difficult challenge to deal with such an influx of people.
L.M.: For a couple of months the MOAS has interrupted SAR activities in the Mediterranean, moving to the southern part of the Asian continent. What are the main reasons that have led you to this choice? And what are the characteristics that bind and those that distinguish the Asian reality from the Mediterranean one?
R.C.: The reasons are different, but mainly this choice was dictated by the dramatic change in the scenario in which we were called to operate. Although we had signed the code of conduct proposed by the Italian Government, as yet another demonstration of our trust in the institutions and transparent cooperation, the situation had become intolerable. Libya cannot be considered a safe country or port. Therefore, in order not to become part of a mechanism that care only to avoids departures and arrivals without any interest in human rights, we decided to stop the mission in the Mediterranean and accept the call of the Pope to help our brothers and sisters Rohingya in escape from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
The main differences concern the geographic area and the field on which we operate: no longer the sea, but the land. It is certainly a major challenge, but people’s rights have no borders and MOAS was born to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable. Wherever they are.
L.M.: Stereotypes and prejudices are part of a circle that feeds and strengthens the fear of the other, the foreigner, the immigrant. On the other hand, mutual knowledge and dialogue are the only useful elements for the creation of empathy, synergy and solidarity. What are the emotions of those who save and what you can see in the gaze of those who are saved at sea?
R.C.: Stereotypes and prejudices are one of the greatest contradictions of our time: a time when with a click we communicate with people who live on the other side of the world, a time when we can potentially erase every geographic barrier. Yet, within us, in our hearts we multiply the barriers and grow the distance with the other that is perceived negatively. But what we forget is that the real recipe for happiness is in giving. The emotions in tending one hand to those who are going to sink, to cover those who are cold, to nourish those who are hungry or to cure those who are sick are very strong and difficult to tell in words. As well as gratitude, relief and love that is read in those who believed to die and instead was saved. I think it’s this kind of emotion we should be aiming at.
L.M.: In many interviews and speeches you have put into light the need to involve more strongly the millennials. Do you think that such a mutation could change the trajectory towards which the European Union and the European states are heading?
R.C.: I think a lot about young people and when I turn to the millennials I do it thinking of my own daughter who is 21 years old. When I talk to them, it’s like talking to her. Young people are the future of the world and just aiming at them we can hope to improve the current situation. However, more and more often young people remain on the sidelines, disinterested, apathetic and disheartened instead of acting to change the world in which they live in a better world. Therefore, my invitation is to put yourself at the forefront in the name of solidarity and brotherhood with other millennials less fortunate than they flee from situations of war, persecution, widespread violence and endemic poverty. In doing so, we can really change trajectory and build a world that welcomes, instead of excluding.