The night is pitch black, we can barely see anything. We can hear the sound of a boat’s motor coming closer. Only moments before it passes by just a few meters away, we can see the small black rubber raft, crowded with refugees.
We pass the position and course of the boat through to the volunteers on land via radio. They will welcome the people at the beach some minutes later.
At low speed and with a searchlight positioned at the back of our boat, we are on our way back to Mithimna, Lesbos. We have been at a meeting with other groups&volunteers that are doing their best to make the journey from Turkey to Greece more comfortable for the refugees. It’s mostly volunteers who keep a system of support running out here.
The Spanish life guards of ProActiva who are doing an amazing job here for weeks now, the volunteers of the Norwegian organization „A drop in the ocean“ who are assisting people at the beaches getting out of their boats day by day or the members of Starfish who are running a drop-in center where refugees can get dry clothes and food, have their phones charged and where they can get some hours of sleep before continuing their journey on buses.
On our way back we use the time to exercise maneuvers to be prepared for mission at any time and to get to know the area around Lesbos. We know now that we are definitely in need of a thermal night vision system to be able to spot refugee boats at night.
Now, as the boat is out of the water again, we want to install the AIS and paint “Sea-Watch” and “Rescue” on the tube of the boat. We spend the days for example buying a simcard for our alarm phone which we’ll use to communicate with our working partners such as Watch The Med, that we already know from our mission on Lampedusa, and other organizations.
We will finally start our operations on monday at the very latest as refugee boats are still arriving every day and despite of good weather conditions there have been deadly incidents again last week between Turkey and Greece.
“We are experiencing a humanitarian crisis here”, says the commander of the local coast guard. “We are happy to have you here”. We are now on Lesbos with a 6-headed crew, consisting of professional medical and nautical staff.