South coast patrolling

boat with refugees and coastguard

This rainy night, “South coast patrolling” was once more the word. I packed my things and drove to the meeting point. Once there, we were divided into three different bases. We were sent to “Lasia”, along with other volunteers from Team Humanity and two Austrian reporters. In total, we were 10 people. All night we sat there, in the car at first, and after it had stopped raining, by a campfire. Nevertheless, it was cold and our eyes grew heavy, but our conversations kept us awake and entertained. Far and wide, no boat was to be seen.

Volunteers at the campfire
Volunteers at the campfire

At 06.00 in the morning, as the sun slowly rose, we spotted a boat in the distance. Suddenly all were wide awake and started to prepare everything. The excitement grew noticeably and it got very quiet. After some time, we noticed another boat approaching the refugee vessel. Only by using binoculars, we were able to tell that it was a life boat. It serves to identify emergencies and notify an ambulance ashore, but also to safeguard a secure arrival at the beach.

Refugee vessel and life boat
Refugee vessel and life boat

A few minutes ago we had barely been ten people, but suddenly our number increased fivefold. The situation quickly became chaotic and one lost track of all that what was going on. There fortunately wasn’t a medical emergency.

I took care of a father who was traveling with his two little sons. The mother did not seem to be there. They were completely soaked and trembling all over. I immediately provided them with gloves, socks and hats. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to find any children’s gloves, so I just pulled socks over the little ones’ hands. When I had changed all three, I brought them something to eat. But since they were in complete shock and could not hold anything because of their trembling, I had to help them.

Suddenly someone yelled “Doctor, Doctor, we need a doctor”. I immediately ran there, to comprehend what was going on. An elderly woman would not stop vomiting, but fortunately everything turned out to be fine – she was seasick.

The UNHCR bus had already arrived, waiting to take everybody to Moria. Suddenly the beach was empty again, safe for a few volunteers busy collecting the trash.

Clearing work at the beach
Clearing work at the beach

For me on the other hand, it was now to time to have breakfast and rest, to gather up strength for the next few hours. But unfortunately, resting is a matter of its own here on Lesbos – I experience so much in one day and my mind has no time at all to process all of it. I am present, I see what’s going on, and yet I feel like in a movie, as if it weren’t all real. It is somewhat paradoxical that while the rest of the island is just about to start another day, others have just spent the last two hours terrified to the core. One island, yet two entirely different realities.

Garbage after a boat's arrival
Lasia hotel: garbage after a boat’s arrival

Good night 🙂

Translation from German: Serena Nebo

Credits

Image Title Author License
Volunteers at the campfire Volunteers at the campfire Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Volunteers and refugees Volunteers and refugees Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Volunteers at work Volunteers at work Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Lasia hotel: garbage after a boat's arrival Lasia hotel: garbage after a boat’s arrival Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
boat with refugees and coastguard Boat with refugees and coastguard Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Clean-up operation at the beach Clean-up operation at the beach Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0
Doctor helping to put on a life blanket Isabel Scharrer CC BY-SA 4.0