It sounded too good to be true: an app that let’s you save refugees in the Mediterranean from the comfort of your living room.
“Every person who has watched this tragedy unfold over the past two years will now have a chance to contribute to saving lives, even if it is giving a couple of minutes of their time on an app,” Christopher Catrambone, founder of Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), told Mashable.
Here is how it was supposed to work: The ISea app “crowd-sources the search of the sea for migrants by giving access to the satellite image of the sea to smart phone users.” It then lets you scour those satellite images to spot refugee boats in trouble and alert rescue teams to their location. Teams such as MOAS, which provides professional search-and-rescue assistance to refugees and migrants in distress at sea. MOAS collaborated with the Singapore-based Grey for Good to develop the app.
Yet one week after the launch of ISea, the first stories broke that the app did not live up to its promise. Users pointed out that the app displays the same image for every user. ISea was subsequently pulled from the AppStore. And Grey for Good turned out to be the pro bono arm of a global advertising agency.
Meanwhile, MOAS, which even without the app rescued more than 2,000 people in its first two weeks of its operations in the Mediterranean, has denounced Grey for Good and the ISea app. “We were dismayed to discover that real time images were not being used,” MOAS wrote in a statement following the revelations. “We have since discontinued our relationship with Grey for Good and spoken candidly about our disappointment to the media.”
So far 2016 has been the deadliest year on record on the Mediterranean: 2,888 migrants and refugees lost their lives, compared with 1,838 through the first six months of 2015.