Sophie Morgenstern, 31/10/2015, Lesvos, Greece [reposted from iha.help]
Yesterday began as horrifying as it ended. It is hard to find words for it all, but I’ll try. A few daysago we got a contact from Bezar, a cousin of a refugee we helped here in Lesbos. He should come from Turkey to Lesbos in the night to yesterday and we were in contact in case he needed help with anything. He should be leaving the Turkish coast at 6 am. We were in contact through Whatsapp. At 8 am we got a voice message and texts saying “We are drowning. HELP US!”. Immediately we got up and called the Greek coast guard. We asked Bezar to send us his location and forwarded the coordinates to the coast guard. Unfortunately the Greek coast guard couldn’t get them, because they were in Turkish waters and told us to call the Turkish coast guard, which we did. The Turkish told us, that it was to far out and that they couldn’t get them either. As you can see on the picture below, it was maybe 7 km out. So we called all the organizations we knew, that have a boat. But they were busy rescuing another boat at the time. So at 10 am we decided to go to Eftalou beach, where most boats arrive during the day and take one of these boats and try to save them ourselves. First we took one can of fuel from one of the boats and then were looking for a good boat, but you have to hurry when you want to take one, because the helpers always cut the boats after arrival, so they don’t take as much space on the beach and so they can be removed. During most of the time this took, we were in contact with Bezar. Their motor had broken down, they had already removed all the unnecessary freight like backpacks from the boat and kept shoveling out water. And it took us very long. Sometimes he didn’t receive out messages anymore and we thought that they had drowned already. At 12.30 pm he texted us that a fishermen had just found them and taken all women and children from the boat to the coast and would return to rescue the rest of them. Later, when we called him, he was on his way to Istanbul. He will not try to cross the Aegean Sea again, this deadly terror, the uncertainty if someone will come to rescue them, was too much for him.
Later we got an emergency call from Molyvos port, the Greek coast guards had rescued a boat in distress and we should be there when they arrived. Most of them were hypothermic, but there were no small kids on that boat. I took care of a woman who didn’t stop hyperventilating. She wasn’t able to do much, so with the help of her teenage son and another volunteer I undressed her, dried her off and put on some dry clothes. She still wouldn’t calm down, when suddenly a car arrived and brought two little children, that were hers. Apparently they were rescued and brought on shore with a jet ski, because the danger of death of children suffering from hypothermia is bigger, so they are priority.
After that, we went to our first beach patrol in the evening. The sea was rough, so we hoped that no boats would leave from turkey that night. When we decided to go to sleep until 2 am and headed back to the Hotel, we were stopped by two Greeks. They made hand signs that hey had found someone on the beach. We ran to the water and I saw a man, face down in the water. I didn’t understand why the two men hadn’t turned him around and tried to do that. Imad, Igor, Hadi and I carried him out of the water. He was stiff. His fists were clenched, his eyes half open, he had bruises on his face. I felt his temperature and he was cold, but I thought that maybe he was still alive. He wasn’t. He was maybe as old as me, 30 years max. I called the police. They said, that the funeral service had been out all day to collect bodies scattered over the island and that it wasn’t possible to send them then, but in the morning. We didn’t want to leave the man alone at the beach and there was a big medical tent, which was abandoned during the night. So we carried him there and cleaned his face and put a blanket over him. We decided to stay there as well. Hadi and I went out for another patrol at 3 and then Imad, Igor and I slept in the tent. We were sent pictures of missing people by another volunteer and we think we could identify him, but are not sure. At 9 in the morning the funeral service arrived. They will bring the body to the hospital to take his DNA so he can be identified.
I am now sitting in the hotel, looking at a helicopter with spotlights over the Aegean Sea. Probably another boat that capsized. So we will head out soon, to do whatever we can, to help.
However, I want to emphasize that these deaths can be avoided. They happen due to politics. I cannot believe, that money (not enough and mostly private donations) is used to finance humanitarian aid on a route through half europe, while it could all be so easy. They could get on a plane or a train and have a safe passage to their destination.
Until that happens, we will keep on doing what we do. If you want to support the refugees who arrive here, share this or make a donation or both or come here yourselves! Thank you! www.facebook.com/Humanitarian-Aid-at-the-European…/…