One Young World Counsellor Father Mussie Zerai is a Catholic priest of Eritrean descent who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for helping to save the lives of thousands of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean.
A large part of Father Mussie Zerai's work revolves around taking migrants’ calls from satellite phones and then communicating GPS coordinates and basic information to coast guards in Italy and Malta as well as EU naval authorities so that rescues can be launched.
Father Mussie Zerai began helping migrants and refugees in 2003 when he gave his number to a journalist who needed help translating the accounts of Eritreans stuck in Libyan detention camps. His number got passed along by word of mouth and then someone scrawled it on the wall of a Libyan prison. Over the last 15 years, he has become a one-man crisis call centre for the Mediterranean as his mobile number spread across the detention centres and refugee camps of North Africa. He now fields calls from as far away as Yemen and Indonesia.
As the number of migrants and refugees grew, he founded the mostly volunteer “Watch the Med” call centre, which is today staffed by several dozen multilingual volunteers.
He was recently featured in The Telegraph as a top contender for the Nobel Peace Prize along with Pope Francis and gave an interview to NBC about his work. Kristian Berg Hapviken, the head of Oslo’s Peace Research Institute, said he had placed Pope Francis at the top of the list for 2014, but this year, with the migration crisis worsening daily, Father Zerai is now one of his favourites to win.
Father Zerai told the Telegraph in an interview that he and Pope Francis met earlier this year at a conference on human trafficking and lamented harrowing survivor stories they had both heard on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
The Nobel Prize for Peace will be announced on 9 October 2015, and Father Mussie Zerai said during an interview with the BBC that the Nobel Prize could help him expand his work of advocacy to give voice to the voiceless.
"It would help create awareness on what happens during the journey for thousands of refugees," he said. "In the past 10 years, I received lots of distress calls from many different places. I try to help save the lives of thousands of refugees who try to reach Europe."
One Young World Counsellor Muhammad Yunus was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
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