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2016

Grand Hospitaller of the Order addresses the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Migration

Calls for the international community to create development programmes and adequate funding to respond to the migration challenge

Grand Hospitaller addresses the UNGA
Grand Hospitaller addresses the UNGA
The Grand Hospitaller of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, has today addressed the United Nations General Assembly High Level meeting on Migration. The full text of his speech: 

Secretary-General, Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

The question isn’t why do people migrate? They have always done so. But today’s migrations are an explosion of movements of peoples, an explosion of humanitarian problems. How can we, the international community, meet this challenge effectively (of over 244 Mio people on the move, over 65 Mio IDP and refugees and over 6 Mio stranded)?

The vocation of the Order of Malta, a sovereign and religious entity of public international law, has always been to care for society’s vulnerable. Today, in particular, the vulnerable we support are migrants and refugees – with aid along the Balkan route, housing and assimilation help in a number of European countries; saving lives in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas; implementing development programs in the migration countries of origin.

 At the Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit in May, the Order of Malta affirmed the commitments, summarised in the Outcome document: ‘to work differently to meet and reduce people’s humanitarian needs’. We emphasised that faith-based organizations and religious institutions have also a special role to play in the field of humanitarian assistance - for refugees, displaced people and migrants:
• because these organisations share common fundamental elements - the respect for human dignity, the value of the family, the duty of care for fellow man;
 • because they develop networks of support and solidarity;
 • because they can be the liaison between diasporas and affected populations;
• and because they are often trusted by afflicted populations, to assist and to protect them.

Therefore, we applaud the inclusion of the role of faith-based institutions in the outcome Document and Annexes of this High-Level Meeting.

 We know that there are widely differing drivers of migration: war; religious or racial persecution; climate change; economic and social opportunities. These migration drivers demand global cooperation - a consistent, coordinated approach at both international and national level.

Politicians must take a responsible role and explain to their electorates the benefits of migrants and refugees as an indispensable resource for economic growth.
We call for development programs which must cover extended time periods, complemented by emergency aid for immediate suffering.
We call for adequate funding for the humanitarian and development fields. To respond to the challenge, the recommendations of the World Humanitarian Summit - on bridging the humanitarian-development gap - must be implemented.
How can it be that in a world which produces 78 trillion dollars in GDP, we cannot together agree to allocate and administer 15 billion dollars for humanitarian aid, which is the target set by the World Humanitarian Summit?
Grand Hospitaller contributes to the debate-UNGA Migration meeting
Grand Hospitaller contributes to the debate-UNGA Migration meeting
Immediate action for refugees and migrants:
• To organise integration of refugees and migrants, so that they become an asset, (not a liability);
• To continue to save lives along the migration routes;
 • To emphasise and foster respect for human rights;
• To draw attention to the living conditions in so-called ‘safe-houses’ in north Africa, which often include sex exploitation and slavery;
• To create work in the refugee camps for the adults and organise schooling for the bored and directionless young.

If we do not agree on these priorities as a united international community, we risk radicalisation through idleness, and a generation of millions of unassimilated and unskilled.

Immediate action for States and International Organisations:
• Urgently, to open safe and legal paths to enter developed countries. (This does not mean indiscriminate admission);
 • To work for cohesion of the industrialized countries on migration, developing resettlement, relocation opportunities and dignifying reception capabilities;
• To implement projects, in the migrants’ countries of origin and transit, to induce people to settle, (avoiding the risk of dangerous sea crossings);
• To discourage populist attitudes and policies of fear and consider how the international media could cooperate;
• To intensify the fight against traffickers and smugglers of human beings;
• To deal with migration as a foreign policy issue, not a border security issue.
 
What we are facing is but a beginning: from local migration to global, from global migration to massive country migrations. To be successful, we must challenge global indifference, fear, and economic selfishness. We, the Sovereign Order of Malta actively support this task of the United Nations and the international community to offer migrants and refugees a better world. Together we MUST succeed.   

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Heartbreak in Amatrice

Order of Malta Italian Relief Corps volunteer interviewed on BBC Radio 4

Amatrice - a medico from the Italian Relief Corps of the Order Malta surveys the ruins of the little town
Amatrice - a medico from the Italian Relief Corps of the Order Malta surveys the ruins of the little town 

‘Here, almost everyone knows someone who died.’ Volunteer Andrea Zuanetti of the Italian Relief Corps of the Order of Malta explains the psychological impact on the survivors of the earthquake which has destroyed the famously beautiful town in central Italy.  
 For the full interview click here.  

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Order of Malta on the ground in Amatrice: volunteer Giorgio Minguzzi is interviewed this morning on Vatican Radio

'Helping is a tricky task; the aftershocks are dangerous'

Right now, 64 volunteers work to provide food, clothing, care, to survivors. Last night they hosted 230 in the local sports hall. The nightmare is not over. Click here for link to interview.

The earthquake has prompted outpouring of support: click here for Catholic New Agency article and Order of Malta action.


 

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Emergency teams of the Order of Malta in rescue and assistance for victims of the earthquake in central Italy

Grand Master sends message of condolence to President Mattarella

Earthquake in central Italy - Order of Malta teams on the ground in Amatrice
Earthquake in central Italy - Order of Malta teams on the ground in Amatrice

Teams of doctors, nurses and rescue workers of the Italian Relief Corps of the Sovereign Order of Malta travelled on site early this morning to the areas hit by the violent earthquake at 3:30 am in central Italy, affecting Lazio, Abruzzo and Le Marche. In Arquata del Tronto, municipality of the province of Ascoli Piceno, a canine unit for rescue operations has also been deployed as part of the rescue teams. 

An assessment team of volunteers, including medical and paramedicals, is now located in Amatrice, working with the staff of the department of Civil Protection in the rescue operations. In Amatrice and Accumoli, two towns badly damaged by the ‘quake, rescue and assistance operations continue unabated.

The Grand Master’s message of support
Within hours of the earthquake, Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta Fra’ Matthew Festing sent the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella a strong message of condolence and support: “I wish to convey sincere condolence for the many victims of this catastrophe. I also wish to express solidarity and sympathy and assure prayers of comfort and consolation to their relatives, to the survivors and displaced persons.” 

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In search of Order of Malta commanderies in England

Grand Prior of England leads an historic visit

St Basil's, Toller Fratrum


























                                                                        St Basil's, Toller Fratrum

The special visit, led by the Grand Prior of England, Fra’Ian Scott, took in two commanderies* that had once belonged to the Order of Malta, up to the time of the Dissolution in 1540. 

The commandery at Ansty
Ansty is a beautifully situated Commandery, now a private house, next to the parish church of St James. After the Reformation, the house and church, although Anglican, had belonged for several centuries to the local recusant family, the Arundells of Wardour.
  
The Commandery consisted of a small group of knights and clerics, under a "Commander", who ministered to pilgrims on their way to the Abbey of Shaftesbury or to more distant destinations. The church was built by the Order’s Hospitallers** in around 1240. The porch was added in Victorian times, and the distinctive Hospitaller crosses on the gables were restored then, too.

The commandery at Toller Fratrum 

Grand Priory Members at Toller Fratrum

Members of the Grand Priory at Toller Fratrum

The visit continued to the hamlet of Toller Fratrum in Dorset. The manor there was given to the Hospitallers ("fratrum" ie, of the brothers) in the 12th century. There may have been a nunnery attached. In 1540 it was purchased by one John Samways. The site of the manor is probably that of Little Toller Farm, which has a surviving medieval carving of a poor man being given a loaf of bread, reflecting the hospitality which was one of the duties of the Commanderies. The little rustic church of St Basil (there are only three dedications in England to that saint) survives. It was heavily restored in the 19th century. It closed for regular Anglican worship in 2010 and is now owned by a trust. It possesses two fittings of note - the Norman font with its remarkable carvings of humans and beasts and a fragment of a stone relief of 1130 of St Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Christ. It has been submitted that the style and date of this stone suggests a link to Order’s important property at Buckland. 
Fragment showing Mary Magdalen, St Basil's, Toller Fratrum
Fragment showing Mary Magdalen, St Basil's, Toller Fratrum

Mass was celebrated in the church for the first time since 1540, before a large congregation of Anglicans and Catholics from the neighbourhood. Fr Ronald Creighton-Jobe of the London Oratory delivered the homily. 

 *A commandery was a district under the control of a commander of a military order or an order of knights. The Order of Malta established a number of commanderies in European countries in medieval times which continued their tradition of providing aid to those in need.  
**Hospitallers of the Order of Malta tended the sick and the poor, as they still do today.

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Holywell – largest ever Order pilgrimage to historic site

The Holywell site
                                                                     The Holywell site

The Order of Malta’s annual pilgrimage to this, the most visited historic shrine in Britain, saw a devoted gathering meet for the last July weekend to pay their respects and pray at the site. The pilgrimage was noted for the presence of so many different age groups joining together for the ceremonies and prayers at St Winefride’s Well and at the tiny parish church at Bala. 

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Leader’s honour for service in the charitable field

Grand Master invested by the League of Mercy

The President of the League of Mercy , Lord Lingfield, invested the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, with the Grand Cross of the League of Mercy at the House of Lords, London, on 12 July. Trustees and members of the Order of Malta were in attendance.

award of the Grand Cross of the League of Mercyto the Grand Master of the Order of Malta
Lord Lingfield, President, League of Mercy with Fra' Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Order of Malta

Lord Lingfield praised the work of the Grand Master and the Order in carrying out its mission to serve the poor and the sick in 120 countries. Over 100,000 members, medical and social care personnel and volunteers worldwide work to help those in need. In thanking Lord Lingfield, the Grand Master spoke in particular of the traumatic situation in the Middle East and its impact on Europe, and the Order’s work to help refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Sovereign Military Order of Malta was founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century and is the oldest Christian charity.

The League of Mercy was established by Royal Charter on 30th March 1899. It rewards distinguished voluntary service in the charitable field. Other distinguished recipients of the Grand Cross include HRH Princess Michael of Kent, HRH Prince David of Georgia, the Rt Hon the Baroness Boothroyd OM and Dame Norma Major DBE.

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World Youth Day 2016, Krakow: Order of Malta medical services prepare for the big events

Doctors, nurses, paramedics, firstaiders are coming from all over Europe

Order of Malta's Polish Medical Service in preparation for World Youth Day, Cracow
Order of Malta's Polish Medical Service in preparation for World Youth Day, Krakow

Doctors, nurses, paramedics, firstaiders, all volunteers of the Sovereign Order of Malta, are arriving in Krakow, Poland, from all over Europe to lend their services at the 25-31 July gathering. They will provide first aid and give special assistance to the disabled. Up to 2.5 million young Catholics are expected to attend.

 The Order of Malta, through the coordination of its Polish Medical Service, is providing 32 ambulances - 12 from Poland and the rest from Germany and Hungary. “For our volunteers of the Order of Malta in Poland, the World Youth Days in Krakow will be our most challenging engagement in 25 years. We have been preparing for this event for a very long time,” says Damien Zadeberny, Chairman of the Service.

The Service will provide 40 medical teams, all with medical backpack kits, rescue boards and means of communication in the Campus Misericordiae, where Pope Francis will meet the young Catholics, and in Blonia Park in central Krakow where the Opening Mass, the Welcome Ceremony for the Holy Father, and the Way of the Cross, will all take place. There will also be a hospital tent for emergencies. 

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Grand Master talks to the Financial Times about the Order, its history and its works

Help for those in need everywhere, every day

In an informal interview, Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing describes his work and life for the Order. 'It's always about thanking people,' he explains. The Order's 13,500 members, 100,000 volunteers and over 25,000 medical and para medical personnel work with dedication and commitment all over the world. 

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All over the world, the Order of Malta celebrates the day of their patron saint, John the Baptist

For the British Association of the Order, members, volunteers and friends gathered in London

A special Mass of celebration in the Brompton Oratory saw over 500 members, their families and friends of the British Association of the Order of Malta link with their Order family members all over the world in observing the feast day of their patron, St John Baptist, and reviewing their works for the those in need over the past year. 

St John's Day celebrations 2016, Brompton Oratory, London
St John's Day celebrations 2016, Brompton Oratory, London

In Britain, projects to help those in need continue to grow. 3000 meals were provided for homeless guests in one of the Order’s London soup kitchens; with the same services running in Oxford and Colchester. New projects include a breakfast drop-in club in the centre of London and an offenders rehabilitation support service. 

Photoes: George Ramsay
Lowering the banners, St John's Day, Brompton Oratory, London
Lowering the banners, St John's Day, Brompton Oratory, London

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Grand Chancellor speaks at the WHS Special Session on 'Religious engagement - the contributions of faith communities to our shared humanity'

To promote the rules of international humanitarian law is vital

World Humanitarian Summit in session, 23-24 May 2016
World Humanitarian Summit in session, 
23 - 24 May 2016
“I call on faith-based organisations to promote the rules of international humanitarian law and invite the international community to discover the benefits of faith-based actors, to make better use of their unique qualities,” declared Albrecht von Boeselager at a Special Session at the World Humanitarian Summit, held last week in Istanbul. 
The Special Session focused on the role of faith based institutions and organisations in promoting peace and providing relief in areas of conflict. The Sovereign Order of Malta participated at the event along with other leaders of religious communities and representatives of different faiths.

Click here for the Special Session Outcome Document. 

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Share humanity – leave no one behind

World Humanitarian Summit meets in Istanbul, 23-24 May


Refugee tents at the Syrian - Turkish border
Refugee tents at the Syrian - Turkish border
The first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) takes place in Istanbul this week. World leaders – governments, international institutions, international aid agencies and faith-based aid agencies - will meet to reaffirm the principles at the heart of humanitarian action – humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. 
This reaffirmation is one of the main goals of the participation of the Sovereign Order of Malta in the WHS. “Religious leaders and faith-based organisations are often trusted first responders and long-term community partners in crises. The Summit is the ideal opportunity for representatives of all different faiths to come together and affirm their commitment to humanitarian assistance and protection,” explains Albrecht Boeselager, Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Order of Malta. “Our priority is to reaffirm the principles of international humanitarian laws, often ignored by parties, and not just armed rebel groups and non-state actors, as the attacks on hospitals, schools and against health workers sadly remind us”.


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7000 pilgrims of the Sovereign Order in Lourdes for the 58th annual international pilgrimage

The British Association brings a large contingent

Lourdes - the basilica in the spring sunshine
Lourdes - the basilica in the spring sunshine
At the 58th annual international pilgrimage of the Sovereign Order of Malta to Lourdes, Grand Master Fra’Matthew Festing, in welcoming the pilgrims, reminded everyone that: ‘Our work here in these days is to help all our beloved malades – 1500 with us this year - and to make our pilgrimage with them’.

He greeted the Cardinalis Patronus, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who makes his second pilgrimage with the Order. And extended a special welcome to Mons.Jean Laffitte, the Order’s new Prelate, on his first. And he noted that every year new pilgrim groups take part - this year coming from Albania, Australia, Canada, Kenya and Senegal, with the British Association bringingt its usual large contingent. All were welcomed to Lourdes, ‘to this compelling sanctuary, which represents for us Bernadette’s physical suffering, but also her hope and belief in God, which is our hope too.’

This year, the pilgrimage saw around 7,000 members and volunteers present, with 3 cardinals, 14 bishops and archbishops, 200 priests and 12 deacons among them.  
Lourdes - the Acceuil - tidying the wards
Lourdes - the Acceuil - tidying the wards
Lourdes - voiture and candles
Lourdes - voiture and candles

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Mosul: trapped between the front lines without food or water

The Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency, is providing aid to the IDPs


Iraq: IDPs arrive in Makhmour in search of safety
Iraq: IPDs arrive in Makhmour, Kurdish territory, seeking safety

Thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) are fleeing to safety from fighting near Mosul. On 26th March, around 2000 people arrived in the village of Makhmour, in Kurdish territory, after days trapped between the front lines without food or water. Malteser International, the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency, is providing aid. “The humanitarian situation here is catastrophic,” says Lisa Hilleke, Malteser International’s Liaison Officer in Erbil. “For security reasons, all the displaced are being kept in a single building with just 19 latrines. People are sleeping on top of each other. It is a potential breeding ground for diseases.” Humanitarian planners fear this wave of IPDs could be the first of many.

IDPs in a highly vulnerable condition
After living under ISIS rule for eighteen months, many IDPs are already in a highly vulnerable condition. Poor hygiene, a contaminated water supply, a lack of medication and vaccinations, and severe limitations on the availability of medical treatment in the ISIS-occupied zone have left them urgently in need of proper facilities and medical attention. Malteser International has provided two truckloads of hygiene materials to help improve conditions and reduce risk of illness. A coordination with local aid organisations and UN bodies, has provided a weekly mobile clinic run by Malteser International in cooperation with local partner organisation TCCF. “But a permanent solution is urgently needed,” Hilleke stresses.

Medical services are top priority
Preparations are in hand in response to the fear that the IDPs who arrived in Makhmour last week are just the first of many thousands more. “We are monitoring developments in close contact with our local and international partners, and preparing ourselves to provide further aid,” says Hilleke. “Medical services are our top priority.”

Malteser International has been working in Iraq since 2004, undertaking a range of projects in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the north. Since August 2014, the focus has been on providing medical services and emergency aid to IDPs and refugees.

Iraq: IDPs arrive in Makhmour in search of safety
Malteser International is urgently calling for donations to help the affected people: www.malteser-international.org 

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Young English group on pilgrimage to Rome: the Easter message of hope

British Order of Malta Volunteers at Santa Maria Maggiore

Cardinal Burke addresses the OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore
Cardinal Burke addresses the OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore

Twenty six young people from the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV) – eight guests and 16 volunteers – are on Easter pilgrimage to Rome. For most of them, it’s a first – a first time in Rome, a first Mass in Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s four splendid basilicas where the Order’s Cardinal Patronus, Cardinal Raymond Burke celebrated a special Mass for the group, a first visit to the Order of Malta medical post in St Peter’s Square, a first meeting with the Order’s Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing. The Order of Malta’s Cardinal Patronus, Cardinal Raymond Burke, celebrated Mass specially for the group in Santa Maria Maggiore.

‘Actually, I think I’m the oldest of this young group,’ jokes Robert Adamson, a retired civil servant, as he deftly negotiates the church steps in his wheel chair. ‘They are such fun to be with, friendly and caring.’ He describes his first visit with the OMV to Lourdes, how much he enjoyed it, and why he keeps coming back. ‘It was the attitude that was so good. My first visit was in 1986 and I’ve been almost every year since. That means that some of the volunteers are now the children of those who looked after me all those years ago. Lourdes is inspiring – and even the food has improved!’ 
Robert Adamson, Santa Maria Maggiore
Robert Adamson, Santa Maria Maggiore

Uniting the young
27-year-old Anna Zaloga has been with the OMV since 2011. She first heard about the group at school and has been with them to Lourdes, to Walsingham and to the international summer camps the Order runs every year in different European locations. ‘The OMV has helped me a lot,’ she says. ‘It feels like a family and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people.’ Helper Tom O’Neill agrees. ‘You build friendships, with our guests and the other volunteers,’ he says. ‘It brings out the best in people.’ Francesca Montgomery, who has been a volunteer for over six years, finds that the group unites young people in Britain.

Cardinal Burke, in his homily for the young group and their guests, declared: ‘Helpers and friends, God looks for our love, especially in our daily works, to do what is right and good. In Christ we find the strength for our suffering. Easter is a message of hope, that we share in a particular way the suffering of Christ and how to be redeemed.’

Fra’ Matthew Festing welcomed the young people, noting the importance of their actions in helping each other and those less fortunate than themselves, and their contribution to the life and work of the Order of Malta, whose mission is always that: to care for those in need, inspired by Christian traditions of charity.The pilgrimage, organised with great efficiency by Ruth Stanley, ably helped by Jack Straker, is now in its fifth year. 

To know more about the Order of Malta Volunteers in the UK: www.omv.org.uk   
Grand Master greets OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore
Grand Master greets OMV pilgrims, Santa Maria Maggiore


 




















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Letter of condolence from the Grand Master to Philip, King of the Belgians


The Belgian flag flies at half mast
The Belgian flag flies at half mast

In his letter of condolence to King Philip of Belgium, the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta Fra’Matthew Festing has expressed his profound sorrow and deepest sympathy for the events in Brussels which have caused many deaths and injuries. 

‘In this time of great darkness and drama, in the name of the Government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, I want to express my profound sympathy to the whole of the nation of Belgium. The attacks of yesterday are an attack on our shared principles of freedom and peace,’ he said, emphasising that the Order of Malta is opposed to every form of violence. 'We are truly shocked at the massacre of innocent people once again, which, after Paris, Istanbul and Ankara, strikes at the heart of Europe.’ 

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How the Order of Malta rose from near extinction to the worldwide humanitarian organisation of today

H.J.A.Sire’s just published study of its recent past explains

H.J.A.Sire’s latest book* gives a lively account of the two recent centuries of the Order of Malta, for the first time documented in English. His study starts with Napoleon’s arrival in Malta in 1798, which marks the end of the Order’s splendour and military glory and the knights’ expulsion from the island. It traces the next two centuries, through good and bad times: the Order’s resurgence in the nineteenth century due to the sense of duty and religious attachment of the Catholic aristocracy, to the opening of ranks in the twentieth to wider groups and its modern role as an international humanitarian organisation, now present in 120 countries, caring for those in great need. 
Piers Paul Read and Henry Sire
Piers Paul Read and Henry Sire

At the book’s launch last night in London, the distinguished historian and biographer Piers Paul Read introduced the work to the assembled guests and members of the Order: ‘Reading this superb book, which describes in detail the Order’s modern resurrection like a Phoenix from the Ashes, I would suggest that the Order is so particular, so counter-cultural, so unique, that it could never have been invented. The combination of a meticulous respect for its traditions is combined with a heroic plunge by some of the most distinguished members of the European nobility into the stink and squalor of the poor and the sick. Charitable work was the Order’s original charism: it is its charism today.’ 
The Knights of Malta: a Modern Resurrection
The Knights of Malta: a Modern Resurrection

*The Knights of Malta: a Modern Resurrection is available from the publisher and through Amazon.
Hardcover: 352 pages.
 Publisher: Third Millennium (25 Feb. 2016)
Language: English ISBN-10: 1908990678. ISBN-13: 978-1908990679 

The author signs for Lord Lingfield
The author signs for Lord Lingfield

Event Photos: Stephanie Kalber

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What happens at sea when you are cold, tired, have no water or food and cannot swim

‘Migrant’ boats in the Mediterranean: Order of Malta eye witnesses describe the desperate conditions

Mauro Casignini, Director of the Order of Malta's Italian Emergency Corps, addresses the Press Conference on Migration, Rome, 12 February
Mauro Casignini, Director, Order of Malta's Italian Emergency Corps, addresses Migration Press Conference 

‘We think of the sea as beautiful. But now so often it is an instrument of death,’ the director of the Order of Malta’s Italian Emergency Service* (CISOM), Mauro Casignini, told a press conference in Rome today. ‘What we know is that traffickers are waiting on the Libyan coasts. Desperate migrants give them a slip of paper. It says they’ve paid their passage to Lampedusa. That’s where the trafficker’s deal ends. He doesn’t care what happens next.’ 

What happens next is that boats are loaded – often overloaded - with migrants. In the bottom of the boats, in the middle, are stored petrol containers. The journey is overnight. Ringed around the containers are the women and children. The men sit on the outside. As the voyage progresses, those nearest the containers ingest the petrol fumes. The results can be serious skin burns, the vapours can cause asphyxiation. The effects are worse for children and can be fatal. In addition, the migrants arrive at the boats wearing light clothing. They do not know that the sea at night is very cold. They have no food and no water. They cannot swim. Those who survive the 180 k from Libya to Italian waters may be shipwrecked.
Nurse Jean de dieu Bihizi describes the hazards of the sea journey
Nurse Jean de dieu Bihizi describes the hazards of the sea journey
For the rescuers, it’s a race against time
The sea can change its mood in minutes, the boats can founder on unseen rocks. It takes only five minutes for a craft to sink. Those thrown clear into the freezing waters may or may not have life jackets. ‘We have about seven minutes to rescue them,’ says Dr Giada Bellanca, one of CISOM’s 2800 medical volunteers. ‘It’s easier if they don’t have lifejackets as those are mostly not real ones and they hinder us when trying to pull survivors from the water.’ Nurse Jean de dieu Bihizi adds: ‘Often these people haven’t eaten for days. They are not strong enough to undertake such a journey. Many suffer from hypothermia. Many die. This week, two small children we treated had temperatures at 30 degrees. No signs of life. We put them in warm water and gradually they recovered. It is always a race against time.’



Resuce in the Aegean - a child is saved off the coast of Lesbos
Resuce in the Aegean - a child is saved off the coast of Lesbos

Aid extended to the Aegean

CISOM has extended its aid to the Aegean Sea, (Aegean SAR Operation), working on board a Migrant Offshore Aid Station** (MOAS) ship, in close cooperation with the Greek Coastguards and local authorities. This is a shorter distance but no safer than the Strait of Sicily. The teams on board the Responder vessel – equipped for rescue at sea – have been operative since Christmas Eve. Last Monday morning they saved the lives of 59 migrants, including 6 children, off the coast of the island of Lesbos. 

* Since 2008, the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps has been providing medical aid on board the Italian Coastguard and Customs Officers vessels and, since the Mare Nostrum mission with the Italian Navy, guaranteeing prompt and effective interventions in the Strait of Sicily. During these seven years, its doctors and nurses have developed specific skills for providing aid at sea, even in extreme weather conditions. The Order of Malta’s teams have assisted over 40,000 refugees and migrants.

**The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) is a humanitarian organisation specialised in search and rescue at sea for refugees and migrants, started by entrepreneurs Christopher and Regina Catrambone. Since its first operation in 2014, MOAS has rescued 11,685 people in the central Mediterranean. The organisation has operated on board the Phoenix, a 40-metre boat equipped with two rubber dinghies, two Schiebel camcopter drones and a team of professional rescuers, doctors and paramedics. Since December 2015, MOAS has been operating in the Aegean Sea on board the Responder, a second ship, 51-meters, with two high-speed rescue vessels on board. 

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Emergency aid for Syrians fleeing Aleppo

The Order of Malta’s worldwide emergency service, distributes tents, blankets, supplies

Syrian refugees flee Aleppo
Syrian refugees flee Aleppo
As tens of thousands of refugees flee Aleppo along the highway to Turkey, advancing Syrian government forces jeopardise delivery of humanitarian aid. Malteser International, worldwide emergency agency of the Order of Malta, has been providing tents, blankets and supplies, with a Syrian partner operating medical facilities in the region. The staff risk their lives every day. 

Conditions in the areas under siege are very poor indeed and increases in international funding are desperately needed. Aid organisations need unhindered access to the region. However, “Humanitarian aid cannot be a substitute for decisive political action,” stated Malteser International’s number two, Sid Peruvemba, at the weekend. “The suspension of peace talks in Geneva means that the chance of a political solution to the conflict remains extremely small.” 
Syrian refugees on the highway from Aleppo to the Turkish border
Syrian refugees on the highway from Aleppo to the Turkish border
Malteser International has been providing aid to people affected by the Syrian crisis since 2012. Malteser International provided medical treatment to almost 75,000 people in Syria during 2015 – operating a field hospital, a children’s’ hospital and two basic health units in the country through a local partner organization. Malteser International also works with Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and northern Iraq. 


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Grand Master’s call for action to reinforce humanitarian principles in face of refugee crisis

In annual address to the Order’s diplomatic corps, emphasises need to work together, creation of a common policy

Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing addresses the Diplomatic Corps, January 2016
Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing addresses the Diplomatic Corps, January 2016

Grand Master Fra’Matthew Festing has called for the nations of Europe to work together to manage the current refugee crisis and put a common policy and faster administrative procedures in place. He emphasised the need to reinforce the humanitarian principles stated in the post war Geneva Conventions.

In his annual address to the diplomats accredited to the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Grand Master affirmed the core values of protecting lives, upholding human dignity and promoting tolerance.

For the full text of his speech, click here

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