Heading Off Into The Refugee Tragedy in the Med

27th August 2015

The phone wakes me early on the morning of my departure. I’m heading for Malta, to join refugeeup with the MSF/MOAS team on the Phoenix, rescuing people attempting to cross the Mediterranean in leaky, un-seaworthy vessels.

It seems that yesterday yet another leaky, unseaworthy vessel was the cause of another tragedy. “We may have to reroute you to Rome,” John, our logistician in Malta, tells me. “The team has gone out on a rescue, a big one, over 40 dead….. we’re not sure yet where the boat will land.”

I think of the terror they must have felt as their boat filled with water, or capsized –I haven’t heard the full story yet. And I know that only desperation would have forced them onto that perilous journey across the deep waters of the Med. Desperation with their lives in Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya: war-torn, anarchic, little-hope places.

I think back to my time working with MSF with Syrian refugees in Turkey, in 2012. Medically-trained Syrian refugees were staffing our clinic, and I remember the stories they told me. Of the bombs falling daily near their homes, of friends and family members killed, of there being no choice but to escape. Of exhausting, terrifying treks to the border, one with a pregnant wife and small child, all with no possessions but a small suitcase. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to my country,” I remember one consultant, a very qualified, highly educated man in his 50s, telling me. He and the others are just some of the 4 million people who have had to flee Syria to save their lives, most of whom will now have been living in overcrowded refugee camps in the countries bordering Syria for three years. Maybe some of them are now attempting to reach Europe in the hope of a better, safer life.

Or maybe some of the refugees from sub-Saharan Africa I met in the aftermath of the Libyan conflict, in 2011, have been attempting the crossing. They came from countries such as Somalia or Eritrea, had been working in Libya and forced to flee by the conflict. Unable to return to their home countries, they were stuck in refugee camps. They, too, told horrifying stories of imprisonment, beatings, even torture in Libya.

I think back to my time in South Sudan where people, bombed in Blue Nile State in Sudan, had trekked through the bush for up to three months, living on berries, arriving in South Sudan so dehydrated and malnourished that dozens just died on the side of the road.

It is with the plight of these refugees in mind, these people whose faces I remember so well, who I think of as I set off on this trip to help rescue yet more hundreds, thousands of people who, through no fault of their own, are forced to leave their countries. We have a humanitarian duty to help them. Not just in saving their lives in the Mediterranean, but in helping to provide a secure future for them. What right have we to lock ourselves safely up in we’re all right Jack mode in Fortress Britain?

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of me. I hope I’m prepared, physically and mentally, for this trip. I’ve done a fairly arduous sea-safety training, which entailed me leaping from a height into water, dressed in a survival suit, and clambering into a wobbly life-raft. But I don’t think anything – not even seeing people dying miserably from Ebola – can prepare one for finding 52 people dead in the hold from asphyxiation, as my colleagues did recently.

But I’m glad that I can be there to help these desperate people with my medical skills in whatever way I can.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Heading Off Into The Refugee Tragedy in the Med

  1. Pingback: EdBookFest: Caroline Criado-Perez | Narrative Rehearsal

  2. edesorban says:

    Reblogged this on linkdiving and commented:
    Grateful for people like her helping with this overwhelming crisis.

  3. By: Juan Reynoso, WTP Activist – clearglobal2016@gmail.com
    Americas must realize that self-scrutiny is not treason. Self-examination is not disloyalty.
    Truth and knowledge diffused among the people are necessary for the reclamation and preservation of our Democracy, rights, freedom and liberties.
    The U.S. must take responsibility for the exodus and the refugee crises. http://northerntruthseeker.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-truth-about-syrian-refugee-crisis.html
    Fellow Americans, our country’s moral responsibly is dead. The roots of these refugee crises are the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and other countries. We know that the “roots” of the crises in these countries which have given rise to this “Human catastrophe” is the United States of American; George W. Bush created this exodus of innocent people that was force to leave their country and seek refuge in the EU. But the response to meet America’s moral responsibility of this crisis created by their greed for power and control of the Middle East oil is only a guilty silence.
    Any serious consideration of what lies behind the surge of refugees into Europe leads to the inescapable conclusion that it constitutes not only a tragedy but a crime. More precisely, it is the tragic byproduct of the US criminal policy of aggressive wars and regime change interventions pursued uninterruptedly by the US imperialism, with the aid and complicity of its Western European allies, over the course of nearly a quarter century.
    The US, the UK and NATO are responsible for the EU refugee’s crisis. The destruction and the killings by the wars in the Middle East is the root of this problem. We’ve lost sight of the simple fact that our fellow humans are in dire need of help, having fled death and destruction in their homelands only to face an even more perilous journey into Europe. This refugee crisis was created by us; a huge number of people are continuing to cross the Mediterranean in voyages that have killed more than 2,000 so far this year. We must take responsibility and now is the time to help the people who need it the most.
    Enough is enough; our attitudes have to change we must see the human and not the imagined danger that anything is under threat apart from these people’s lives, somehow our government has stopped seeing refugees, but they are refugees created by their military actions and tried to deny them the assistance they are legally, and morally, entitled to, is the worst crime against humanity. But it has to end, and end now; it has to end because people are dying in their thousands, because Europe’s reputation as a champion of human rights is disintegrating, because if we don’t act now we will regret it for the rest of our history.
    To share this please clicks here Share
    Sources for this article include:
    US Military and Clandestine Operations in Foreign Countries
    Chronology of U.S. Military Interventions, from Vietnam to the Balkans
    A Brief History of U.S. Interventions: 1945 to the Present
    U.S. Military Intervention in the Middle East
    Iran, the United States and a Political Seesaw
    U.S. Military intervention in the Middle East
    U.S. Military intervention in Iraq.
    The U.S. used military power in support of its national interests. “The US Corporations”

  4. JoHanna Massey says:

    You embrace the meaning of “Pray With Your Feet.”

  5. Pingback: Heading Off Into The Refugee Tragedy in the Med | kaineanthony Issues

  6. Linda says:

    Blessings on you for your journey and giving hope to those who have so little left.

  7. hadeshy0806 says:

    Hi I’m a journalist and I’m keeping an eye on the refugee crisis. I’m now looking for a refugee who writes blog. Because I want the world to hear their true voices. Do you know any person? Thank you for your help!

  8. Pingback: On the Run: Blogging the European Refugee Crisis | Eslkevin's Blog

  9. Pingback: fulanny

  10. Thank you for going .. and blessings on all trying to help. I pray that the desperate many find safe waters.

  11. M.L.Kappa says:

    Bless you for your work I will link this on my blog Letters from Athens

  12. Reblogged this on teachramblings and commented:
    You are wonderful. Thank you for doing what you are doing.

  13. Pingback: On the Run: Blogging the European Refugee Crisis

  14. Thank you for helping these people. The world needs more individuals like you. 🙂

  15. Pingback: EdBookFest: Caroline Criado-Perez

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s