Lesbos Report

by Joby Fox December 2015

Folks, as you know 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 and also of the young boy found dead on the beach.

I first arrived in Lesbos some 5 weeks ago. From the moment I stood on the North beach with other concerned people from around the world the boats came in , in all weather and all times of the day and night. I was shocked by what I saw and the lack of official response from agencies such as the UN and Red Cross.

Something needed to be done, particularly in regards to people on dinghies capsizing in the water – an everyday occurance, and many lives had been lost needlessly. The lack of response to the drownings was a shameful indictment to many so-called humanitarian groups. Something needed to be done.

I returned 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 of finding a way to have an effective response to people drowning at sea. Boats were needed to save lives. There were many legal implications around this issue but it was the right thing to do regarless. I was contacted by many people who reach out and wanted to show their support in one way or another.

We raised some funds (?), and on Wednesday 9th Nov I returned to the island with a team of four people (a sea rescue, a medic, a coordinator and myself). I was over the moon when I got back to Lesbos as many issues around legality and other impediments to getting a boat had been lifted. Now there is in place a civil sea rescue response team with rib boats, their own radio frequency and emergency drills, and effective coordination with the Greek and Turkish coast guards. It is my assessment that there is a proper response in place for people in the water, and the boat is off the agenda for now. The emphasis is now on skilled personnel.

I know all the main groups and individuals who had been working away on this great initiative and we have placed our personnel under their jurisdiction, and we will continue to do so where it is required.

I am in the process of setting up a charity, which will consist of 3 members to begin with. I feel happier dealing with the actual problems rather than accounts and bureaucracy. To date we have spent a minimal amount of money, and we are still seeking funding to support our teams in this very fluid situation. Things can change rapidly on the ground, and we would like to have the resources to respond.

Right now, after a week or so where with only a trickle of refugees coming and with an influx of volunteers, we could have been forgiven for thinking it was ‘the beginning of the end’ to the problem, but as I write this, reports of some 60 boats are coming in. Once again, I don’t need to imagine the chaos and distress, which will inevitably ensue. My thoughts are towards building the second team to relieve the first team, who has been there for a week already.