For almost two years, I worked with the international NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) as PR officer.
Throughout that time I spent practically every day thinking about migration. How many people were rescued on each trip. How many men, women and children had drowned every month.
I needed to know these details because journalists from all over the world would call daily to ask for updates and expert information. My job was to help keep the story on the news agenda and promote the work of MOAS to sustain donations.
But it was more than that. Working so closely to the crisis meant I became absorbed by it. I began to see it from a whole new perspective. A clear, undistracted perspective.
Every day I would scour the international news looking for stories about migration. Some days I would be shocked that the story was being ignored by so many news outlets. Other days I would find an incredibly powerful piece of content and instead I’d be shocked because nobody shared it.
“On very rare occasions, the story would take over the news cycles around the world. I was usually given forewarning because my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.”
On very rare occasions, the story would take over the news cycles around the world. I was usually given forewarning because my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
“We heard a massive boat went down and dozens of people drowned…”
“Yes, it happened yesterday too,” I would think to myself. “Why weren’t you interested then?”
I remember the day Aylan Kurdi was found washed ashore in Turkey.
MOAS raised €2 million in donations that week because the media couldn’t stop publishing that heartbreaking photo.
Just four months ago, my time at MOAS came to an end.
Soon I had other clients talking to me about their problems, their own little crises. I also opened Lovin Malta, which consumed the rest of my time. So I soon forgot all about migration.
Before I knew it, I was distracted like everyone else.
Today, I gloss over stories about migration. Some days I forget that it’s even still a thing. I forget that boats continue to cross from Africa to Europe every single day. I forget that people younger than me die the most inhumane deaths on their way.
Other days I click on a story, remember the outrage that used to consume me, and quickly move onto something else.
Omran, was a stark reminder. The photo which went viral this week of a young boy rescued after Russian airstrikes in Aleppo, Syria, reminded me of all the Syrian refugees MOAS had saved in the past few years at sea.
“Before I knew it, I turned into everyone else: a distracted person with only a couple of seconds each day to worry about migration.”
So where is MOAS now?
I checked online to find out.
Sure enough, their latest rescue involved the recovery of two dead Syrian children girls, a 5-year-old and an infant of only eight months.
A video (see below) shared on their site showed a sinking and overcrowded dinghy being rescued in the nick of time, the migrants singing in gratitude.
This issue did not go away. People are still drowning everyday.
The rescuers of MOAS (now together with the Red Cross) are still out there saving them, along with a handful of other NGOs and state authorities doing incredibly brave and invaluable work.
How could this have fallen off my radar so easily? So quickly too.
Being aware about a problem doesn’t solve things overnight. But it could get us closer to a solution. Certainly a step closer than not giving a shit.