by Joby Fox, Refugee Rescue Team
Some four months ago I went to Lesbos in reaction to the crisis that had been unfolding there. Many of you will have seen the distressing images of people in the water pleading for their lives and also of the young three year old boy found dead on the beach.
I first arrived in Lesbos at night and from the moment I stood on the North beach outward facing to Turkey the boats were coming.
Myself and other concerned people from around the world took in boat-loads of traumatised families day and night.
I was shocked by what I saw in those early days. The lack of official response from agencies such as the UN the EU and Red Cross was a real eye opener.
I knew something more needed to be done, particularly in regards to people in dinghies capsizing in the water – an everyday occurrence on the route, so many lives had already been needlessly lost.
The lack of response to the drownings was a shameful indictment to many so called humanitarian organisations.
I returned home to build teams to help with the situation, and I opened up a crowd-funding page. I received great media interest, which helped to raise the issue. Our first aim was to find a way to implement an effective response to people drowning at sea.
Rescue boats were needed to save lives. There were many legal implications around this issue but it was the right thing to do nevertheless. I was contacted by many people, who reach out and wanted to show their support in one way or another. I was joined by a lady called Jude Bennett and we returned many times to Lesbos always moving forward on our goal to have a rescue boat and skilled crew.
Eight weeks ago we where approached by a world famous artist who donated a RNLI rescue boat to us, Refugee Rescue. We are now operational with a 4 person team in support of the Greek coast guard at night, when it really counts to have rescue vessels on the sea. We have assisted in countless incidents of over-crowded dinghies and boats, and recently guided a boat out from the rocky coast of Lesbos. It was full of men, woman and children destined for disaster. We have developed a volunteer programme for sea rescue personnel, which can be found on our site www.refugeerescue.co.uk
As I write this I have received news of more deaths by drowning, 27 people, including 14 children. Our work will go on till there is an end to these senseless deaths. If anybody wants to run a fundraiser or in anyway help us, please feel free to contact us. Together we can help.
Recent development and facts
The EU’s chief immigration policymaker, Dimitris Avramopoulos, predicted some 100,000 migrants and refugees would reach Greek shores this month alone.
About 3,000 people are landing on Greek shores from Turkey every day, officials say.
More than 400 people have died so far this year trying to cross the sea to Europe and nearly 10 times as many refugees and migrants crossed in the first six weeks of 2016 compared with the same period last year.