Over the weekend, 73 organizations rescued 8,500 refugees crammed into wooden and rubber boats and “exposed to wind, waves, and cold” as they tried to cross the Mediterranean, according to CNN

The Italian Coast Guard assisted in rescuing 6,000, and Medecins Sans Frontieres saved over 600 people. 

Migrant Offshore Aid Station also spent a continuous 24 hours saving 453 migrants stranded off the coast of Libya and are still working tirelessly to save the remaining 1,000 at risk of drowning. 

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The refugees and migrants on board were women, children, and men who were Somali, Afghan, Syrian, and Bangladeshi according to an Italian police official. 

The youngest member to survive the rescue operation was a two-week old infant, who is recovering with his mother aboard MOAS’s rescue vessel the Phoenix.  

"In 19 years of covering the migration story, I have never experienced anything like today," Reuters photographer Darrin Zammit Lupi, who was aboard the Phoenix said

Even MOAS co-founder, Christopher Catrambone agreed. 

“Nobody has ever seen anything like what we are witnessing this weekend. It is a miracle that we have managed to rescue everyone with no casualties today,” he said

Though the majority of migrants and refugees were safely brought to shore, not everyone survived. The bodies of an 8-year-old boy and a pregnant woman were two of 13 bodies recovered. 

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But those who survived are on their way to refuge. 

"There were Somalis, Afghans, Syrians and Bangladeshis on board. We will take them first to be registered with the police and then they will be taken on buses to reception centers," Francesco Campolo, a senior police in Reggio di Calabria, Italy, where those who had been rescued by Medecins Sans Frontieres were brought, told CNN. 

Since January, 32,000 people have made the perilous journey across seas like the Mediterranean, and Aegean risking everything for a chance at not just a better life but a safer one free of violence, and the atrocities of war. 

Already over 650 people have drowned of the thousands crossing the seas this year. That number would undoubtedly be larger without the rescue efforts of organizations and people willing to put the needs of refugees first. 

One group of countries, however, is not doing its part. 

As people continue to risk their lives, and heroes to rescue those in need, organizations like MOAS and MSF are calling for the European Union to do more. 

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“Every day people continue to risk their lives while we, as civil society, stand witness. We must continue to call on European governments to act so that people, such as those rescued by us today, do not die, not in Libya nor in the Mediterranean Sea”, Regina Catrambone, MOAS Co-Founder and Director, said in a statement. 

The rescuers are part of Migrant Offshore Aid Station, an organization dedicated to the mission that no person should die at sea, especially refugees and migrants. To this day, MOAS has saved 33,000 women, children, and men who are refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. 

MSF also wonders where the EU is in helping with the migrant crisis too. They say “the sea continues to be a graveyard” without support. 

And until the EU steps up, we can be grateful for the people behind the many organizations putting their lives on the line to rescue the world’s most vulnerable. 


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8,500 Migrants Were Rescued Trying to Cross the Mediterranean This Weekend

By Meghan Werft