time 100 2016 father mussie zerai
Alex Majoli—Magnum Photos

Mussie Zerai

Apr 20, 2016

At 17, Mussie “Father Moses” Zerai fled the oppressive military regime of his native Eritrea for Rome, where a British priest helped him secure asylum. He soon began volunteering to help other migrants and refugees. For over a decade, this Catholic priest has been a lifeline for thousands of Europe-bound boat migrants in distress, relaying their locations to the Italian coast guard and navy. In 2003, he set up an emergency call center to help with the volume.

A staunch critic of restrictive visa policies and the deep-rooted prejudices behind them, Zerai takes the view that “no one is illegal.” Instead, he advocates vocally, tirelessly for solutions to the problems driving people to flee war, persecution or even environmental changes in their home countries, and for more humane policies to help them reach safer conditions.

Ai, an artist and activist, has been working on projects related to the refugee crisis

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