Attracted by the sight of the life-vests and rubber boats…

When crossing the sea strait separating Turkey from Greece towards Lesvos, the migrants are often attracted by the sight of the life-vests and rubber boats left on the shores. The bright orange colour of the life-vests orientates the migrants, under the false conviction that if those objects lie there, someone else “made it” before them to the Greek shores, in that precise point. The problem is that those areas represent instead the most dangerous arrival points, with very impervious access to the mainland. These rocky and stiff shores are concentrated in particular around the lighthouse, a guiding sign for the boats at night, explaining the massive accumulation of traveling equipment in such point.

This represents an occasion for the development of activities of local smuggling, where it has been reported that migrants are charged with high prices to be given a lift from the coast to the camps. A lawyer form the Greek Refugee Council also reported of sexual assault to women and girls received in such narrow areas of the islands.

The geographical location of the arrivals in the Northern coast is hence a condition to the safety of the migrants. For this reason, one of the main activities of Sea-Watch when detecting a migrant boat, is to guide and escort it towards a safe place of disembarkation. This is the beach Skala Sikamineais, hosting a camp for first reception and basic first-aid structures, where the migrants are welcomed by numerous volunteers from different organisations, first medical assistance is provided by fixed teams of doctors and paramedics, and the rescue teams based on the shores the arrivals.

For all this, the work of the volunteers collecting life-vests and rubber boats from the coasts is a crucial service representing not only an act of civil responsibility, showing care for the environment, but even more a direct support to the humanitarian action. The Sea-Watch crews engage in such activity when not involved in operations, or when the boat is undertaking reparations or technical revisions.

Photo Credit: Federica Mameli

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