“I had to pick and choose whom I would save, that mother who is drowning, or the children who cannot swim, or the father who is drowning because the whole family is grabbing him. Yesterday we managed to save 242 people in total, but more than 50 had died. I saw them die. It was terrible. We are shattered physically and psychologically. And I am ashamed of Europe,” says Oscar Camps.
Oscar Camps is a volunteer lifeguard from Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish NGO formed by professional lifeguards who moved to Lesbos Island, Greece to rescue and help the refugees who make a dangerous voyage through the Aegean Sea from the Turkish Coast to Greece.
On Wednesday (October 28, 2015), 242 refugees have been rescued from a capsizing of a boat carrying nearly 300 people through the stormy Aegean Sea, which sparked a huge search involving patrol vessels, fishing boats and a helicopter. At least 11 refugees died in the eastern Aegean Sea among them 7 children. More than 30 people are still listed as missing from this accident.
“The Turkish and Greece Fishermen rushed to the boat and started rescuing people. It was shocking. We climbed into the boat to take the children because they [the refugees] said they had no strength to lift them. The Frontex boat did nothing, All they did is to throw ropes to the drowning, like in the movies, and they stayed there their ship deck watching people die. I wonder if they would do if their relatives were drowning in the sea. It was gruesome. Those who witnessed this tragedy must bear responsibility,” say Oscar referencing to the Frontex ship, an EU coastguard vessel with a Norwegian flag.
Proactiva Open Arms announced via twitter that they will stay in Greece till mid-January 2016 since the surge – and the death toll – at the Aegean Sea are set to rise as Russian airstrikes push more refugees to flee to Europe before borders shut and the sea gets rougher.
Proactiva Open Arms was formed after their members saw the images of drowned refugees washing up on the Greek beaches, including that of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi.
“Those images made us think, ‘we are professionals in lifesaving and we could do something to help the refugees in Lesbos’. We have the skills and we have the equipment to do it so we took a decision and just went,” says Oriol Canals another volunteer from Proactiva Open Arms.
The group of lifeguards raised €15,000 ($17,000) between them, enough to stay for their first month, and since then they relied on raising money to remain longer in Lesbos.
Photos: Santi Palacios/AP, Jeanne Carstensen and Proactiva Open Arms.
Source: El Mundo (in Spanish): http://bit.ly/1PUmZHs
Background information: The Local (ES): http://bit.ly/1jsxNjS
Proactiva Open Arms facebook page: Proactiva Open Arms