An African priest of Eritrean descent, Father Mussie Zerai, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to save the lives of thousands of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean by simply answering his mobile phone. Father Mussie, who is 40 years of age, is often woken up at night by calls from migrants crying for help from flimsy boats taking in water and from those inside stifling cargo compartments of lorries in the Sahara.
He communicates details of these calls to Italy’s coast guard and the EU naval authorities so that rescue crews could be launched.
He has been nominated alongside Pope Francis, who he said he already met earlier this year at a conference on human trafficking and shared harrowing survivor stories they had heard on the silican island of Lampedusa.
Zera said, “he told me, have courage, Father, keep going”
The phone calls started in 2003 after he gave his number to a journalist who needed help translating the accounts of Eritreans stuck in Libyan detention camps. The number was then transferred by word of mouth and until it got to the wall of a Libyan prison.
He founded the “Watch the Med” call centre, manned mostly by volunteers as a result of the numerous calls he has been getting even unto as far as Yemen and Indonesia.
The winner of the award will be announced tomorrow.