American Millionaire Uses His Assets To Save Refugees Headed For Europe

by John Haltiwanger

Thousands upon thousands of refugees are attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea and enter Europe.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 300,000 refugees and migrants made the perilous crossing in 2015 alone. In the process, it's estimated around 2,500 perished.

Europe is facing what is characterized as its worst refugee crisis since World War II, and the Mediterranean crossings are at the center of it.

The refugees are people fleeing violence and persecution in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The response of the international community has been overwhelmingly inadequate.

We were reminded of that fact on Wednesday when devastating photos of a dead Syrian child who washed up on a Turkish beach went viral.

But one man, a 33-year-old multimillionaire from Lake Charles, Louisiana, is not willing to stand idly by -- even as his own country fails to offer an appropriate response to the crisis.

His name is Christopher Catrambone.

In 2013, Catrambone and his family were on a luxury cruise in the Mediterranean and noticed a winter coat in the water.

They learned from the captain it probably belonged to a refugee who died attempting to cross to Europe, The Guardian reports. This experience stayed with them, and they felt obligated to do something after learning about the scale of the crisis.

In particular, they were inspired by Pope Francis' comments on the refugee crisis and what he described as "the globalization of indifference."

Catrambone told Mashable,

I just said to myself, 'Sh*t, we're here living it up without a care in the world, and meanwhile there's people who are dying out here.'

Accordingly, Catrambone and his wife, Regina, set up the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a nonprofit organization helping to rescue refugees and migrants on the Mediterranean. MOAS is Europe's first privately-funded search and rescue.

Catrambone started MOAS with money from a business he founded in 2006 called Tangiers Group, providing insurance, intelligence and other services in conflict zones.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan apparently helped the company garner significant profits. According to Bloomberg Business, Catrambone amassed a fortune of around $10 million by the time he was 30.

Tangiers Group is based in Malta, where Catrambone moved in 2008.

He and his wife invested a huge amount of their wealth ($8 million) in MOAS, Daily Mail reports. Much of the money was spent on a former US military training craft, inflatable rafts and drones -- all of which are now used to rescue people on the Mediterranean.

The craft is called the Phoenix and, according to Daily Mail, has a crew of 17 including humanitarians, maritime officers, security professionals, drone operators and medical staff from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

According to its website, MOAS rescued more than 10,000 men, women and children. The organization is a testament to the fact that we don't have to wait for governments to begin helping people around the world.

Sometimes, it takes private citizens like Christopher and Regina Catrambone to lead the way.

Speaking with The Guardian, Catrambone said,

I've invested my life into this and my family has invested our savings. This is important for us and we believe in it. And you know what, if I am poor one day and I'm out in the street, well so be it. But we did this. And we are proud of it. I will never take anything back.

The Catrambones are examples for us all. They're proof, even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable chaos, there is still hope.

In order to continue its operations, MOAS needs more funding. To help the cause, you can donate on the organization's website.

Citations: How one American entrepreneur spends his summers rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean sea (at a cost of $8MILLION) (Daily Mail), The millionaire who rescues migrants at sea (The Guardian), An American millionaire is saving lives in the Mediterranean (Mashable)