When Smugglers Abandon Refugee Boats At Sea
Abdullah Shawky is an Islamic Relief USA Disaster Response Team Member.
This is part of the emergency story series from Greece.
I wanted to share with you all a story of a terrible tragedy that occurred the day before yesterday. Due to Internet connectivity issues, I am only able to send this message today.
Today was the most difficult for all of us in the harbor. At around 1pm, we received the first batch of survivors from a terrible accident. Some were injured with cuts and bruises, but others suffered far worse…
A makeshift wooden boat (we are now seeing more and more of these show up) was drifting in the middle of the sea. As is now the norm, the smuggler ditched the boat and everyone on it halfway through the journey, leaving the boat damaged and without anyone to pilot it.
The Greek Coast Guard was dispatched to assist and rescue the refugees on board. However, since no one was piloting the refugee boat, it drifted into the pathway of the Coast Guard boat, and the two collided. The refugee boat capsized (flipped over), and then: Catastrophe.
“MAYA! MAYA!” screamed a mother named Nadia. She arrived on shore wailing and beating her chest. She had watched 3 of her 4 children drown in the sinking boat. What followed was chaos. One after another, passengers tried to tell me what happened.
“We came here to escape death from war, but we ended up dying in the sea,” said Nadia’s husband and the father of the three drowned children.
“I don’t want clothes, I don’t want food, I just want my mother,” 9-year-old Hydar told me.
“They’re dead. I watched them die. I know they died.” Abu Ibrahim, an older gentleman, told me as he looked into my eyes.
“I really wish it would have been us instead of the children who died,” Ali, a man who was not related to any of the children, said as he wept.
39 refugees set off on that boat from Turkey. Only 32 made it to Greece.
3 children from the same family, 2 mothers, 1 sister and 1 wife were all dead.
These are seven souls that were taken by the Aegean Sea…
The physical and emotional pain on the faces of all those who were aboard that boat is something you can’t possibly describe through words.
What could I say to comfort them? I can only offer my prayers and try to be here for them and others who will be arriving in similar circumstances. I can only keep working and hope fewer people will have to experience the heartache of losing loved ones too soon, in such a cruel way.
We can’t lose hope.
Can you help? Send aid to support teams aiding refugees right now in Europe.