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A Day in The Life of The Jungle: Syrians Camped out in Calais


Frontline Doctors: Winter Migrant Crisis BBC Documentary 2016

Private Prisons Are Cashing In on Refugees’ Desperation

The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Berlin — IMMIGRATION and Customs Enforcement calls the detention site in Dilley, Tex., a “family residential center.” But to the 2,000 migrant children and mothers who live there, it’s something else: “People who say this is not a prison are lying,” Yancy Maricela Mejia Guerra, a detainee from Central America, told Fusion last year. “It’s a prison for us and a prison for our children, but none of us are criminals.”

The Dilley center holds people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a government agency, but it is run by the Corrections Corporation of America, America’s largest private prison and detention company. It is one part of a worrisome global trend of warehousing immigrants and asylum seekers at remote sites maintained by for-profit corporations. The United Nations estimates that one in every 122 people on the planet is displaced. This is a crisis that requires a humanitarian solution; unfortunately, some people view it as a business opportunity.

In recent decades, many Western governments have increasingly outsourced prisons to private companies, claiming that doing so saves money. As the number of migrants and asylum seekers has grown, governments have found a new use for the private-prison model.

It has become a multimillion-dollar industry. The company Hero Norway runs 90 refugee centers in Norway and 10 in Sweden, charging governments $31 to $75 per refugee per night. Australia’s government has contracted the company Broadspectrum to manage two detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for asylum seekers. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government awarded the security firm Serco a seven-year contract in 2014 worth over $100 million for running the Yarl’s Wood immigrant detention center.

These private companies are too often plagued by scandal and accused of abuse. The Corrections Corporation of America has a long history of ignoring detainee safety and federal laws. Serco has been accused of inadequately training its guards and overcharging the British governmentfor substandard work. One doctor who worked at a site run by Broadspectrum in Nauru told The Guardian that the detention center was “reminiscent of Guantánamo Bay.”

The global flows of refugees are unlikely to abate anytime soon. Wars in the Middle East continue, as does the epidemic of gang violence in Central America. Climate change will send millions more people fleeing their homes in the years to come. Governments must accept that for-profit detention centers are not the way to deal with this issue.

State-run detention centers don’t necessarily guarantee more respect for human rights, but there is evidence that government control brings improvements: A 2014 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, for example, found that private immigration detention centers in the United States were more crowded than state-run ones, and detainees in them had less access to educational programs and quality medical care. And public centers, while still flawed, are more transparent

Opacity is a common denominator in the privatized detention system around the world. In Australia, Europe and the United States, journalists have less access to private prisons than they do to public ones; governments maintain less oversight. That’s not a coincidence. As Matthew J. Gibney, a political scientist at Oxford University, told The New York Times: “When something goes wrong — a death, an escape — the government can blame it on a kind of market failure instead of an accountability failure.”

Advocates of private immigration detention claim they are saving taxpayers money. But that seems unlikely. The American government spends more on immigrant detention today than it did 10 years ago, when the number of border crossings was higher. The Corrections Corporation of America and other companies have lobbied politicians to keep more people behind bars rather than deporting them. Congress requires that at least 34,000 people be housed daily in detention centers — a so-called detention bed mandate.

Making a profit doesn’t just require keeping beds filled, it can often lead companies to skimp on services. This means mental health care, outdoor activities and healthy food are far less available in private detention centers than at those run by the government. Last year, the United Nations described a camp for refugees in Traiskirchen, Austria, that is run by the Swiss firm ORS Service, as “inhumane” because of overcrowding. Similar reports are common not just on Europe’s frontiers but across the world.

Governments that receive migrants and asylum seekers must reverse their reliance on private companies. The current practice is a short-term fix that in the long run will cost governments more and subject refugees to worse conditions. In the meantime, governments from Canberra to Vienna to Washington should institute independent cost analyses to ensure that private centers give taxpayers the best value for their money. They should encourage more oversight of these sites, from government agencies and from the news media. And the 34,000-bed quota must also be done away with immediately.

In its 2014 annual report, the Corrections Corporation of America worried that changes to American immigration policy could cut into the company’s bottom line. Many other such contractors might have similar fears. Let’s hope they do. Unless governments make drastic changes now, these corporations look likely to get richer and richer as more people around the world flee their homes, desperately seeking safety.

Voices from the road




She likes it when her friends call her Jano.
Aged 53, Jano comes from Aleppo, one of Syria’s most war-ravaged cities. She is now waiting for her asylum request to be processed at a refugee camp in Nijmegen, in the east of the Netherlands.
She spends her days knitting woolly scarves and hats, and gives them out as gifts to the children in the camp. There is no warmth without love, she says. And whenever she sees a child cry, she walks up to him to hug him, and says: “Don’t cry, we’ve cried enough.” 
Jano talks a lot about what happened to her on the way to the Netherlands, along the migrant trail. 
“In Serbia, I had to get through a forest. It was after midnight, and there, in the dark, I fell into a muddy swamp. I was stuck there for three whole hours. I was travelling alone, so there was no one with me to help me out,” she said.
One of the things that Jano remembers most about being on the journey to the Netherlands is the silence. “Any sound can give you away, and create problems for the others travelling the route,” she says.
“I got stuck in the swamp, and I was sinking deeper and deeper, until I saw the shadows of two men. ‘Help me,’ I whispered. And they pulled me out, but I lost my boots in the mud. I walked in the forest for several more hours, barefoot, all night long. When I reached a town, I managed to buy shoes and treat the wounds on my feet,” she recalls.
Jano also thinks back to another moment on her journey. “I was climbing a steep hill one night. I was very scared. The smuggler told us that we might slip and die if we weren’t careful. And I realised that if any of us fell, he wouldn’t just die, he would also cause trouble for the others, because the police might notice us. At one point I was about to fall, and a man helped me. He said in a deep voice: ‘I’ll hold you, I won’t let you fall.’” 
For the rest of that climb, she kept on relying on him. And he relied on her too: at one point he was about to slip, and she helped him up. He held her hand and thanked her. They were then separated, just before dawn. “I never knew his name, or found out what he looked like,” she says.
Jano talks about Aleppo like a sorrowful husband who has lost his widow, or a mother grieving her children, or a bride who has become separated from a groom on the eve of their wedding day. She also remembers how people had to live without electricity and running water for many months before she finally decided to flee.
She also tries to think of the future. She wants to learn to ride a bike, she is learning how to use a smartphone, and is picking up some words in Dutch. She doesn’t want to rely on others to get around. 
Jano wants a new life.
Story and photo by
Ola Shams

We Asked Refugees in Denmark to Show Us Their Most Valuable Possessions

We Asked Refugees in Denmark to Show Us Their Most Valuable Possessions

By Lars Jellestad, Photos by Nikolai Linares

January 27, 2016

This article originally appeared on VICE Denmark

On Tuesday, January 26th a majority vote in the Danish Parliament ratified an extensive tightening of Danish asylum laws, in an attempt to make Denmark a less attractive destination for refugees and immigrants. Among other things, bill L87 extends the mandatory waiting period for the right to family reunification from one to three years, cuts asylum seekers’ financial support by 10 percent and shortens residency permits for future seekers of asylum in Denmark. And then there’s of course the widely reported fact, that the bill will also allow police officers to confiscate refugees’ valuables. This is in order to finance their stay in the country while they seek asylum.

That’s the part of the new law that Danes have dubbed “The Jewellery Act” as well as what’s caused most of the international outrage surrounding the controversial act.Denmark has not received this kind of attention since the newspaper Jyllands-Postendecided to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad ten years ago. And just like back then, it’s not the type of international attention that has people popping champagne corks in the offices of local tourist agencies.

One could argue the legitimacy of international media juggernauts comparing Danes to the Nazis, who stripped Jews of large amounts of gold and other valuables. But the fact remains that Danish police can now frisk a person seeking asylum in Denmark, and confiscate certain valuables that person may have in their possession.

Regarding the new law, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen stated, that “the point is to make sure everyone is held to the same standards, be they asylum seekers or Danes – those standards being that you provide for yourself, if you are able.” However, policemen are only allowed to confiscate valuables that exceed a value of 10000 kroner (£1022) and that are not of sentimental value. This begs the question of how deep the real-life implications of this law will actually run.

To get an idea of what valuables refugees had with them upon their arrival in Denmark, VICE Denmark visited an old hospital in the port town of Helsingør that has been repurposed into an asylum centre for approximately 150 refugees. This is what five of the guys that agreed to speak to us claimed to have been carrying with them when they first got there.

Abdul Khader is a 44-year-old Syrian man. He came to Denmark five months ago. His most important possession is the black bracelet, given to him by his 16-year-old daughter. She is currently in Turkey with her two siblings and their mother. Abdul Khader estimates that these items constitute a combined value of about 1500 kroner (£153).

Subhe Mohammad hails from Syria, and is 40 years old. He has been in Denmark for four months. His wife and three children still reside in Syria. His most important possession is his phone, which is filled with photos of his children. Subhe Mohammad estimates that his valuables have a combined value of about 1700 kroner (£173).

Laith Wadea is 31 years old and comes from Iraq. He has been in Denmark for five months. In Iraq, he worked as a teacher and a blacksmith. His most cherished personal possession is his silver necklace with a Virgin Mary medallion, that was given to him by his mother. Aside from the necklace, he also owns an iPhone 6 and a fake watch. He estimates that his possessions are worth a grand total of about 6000 kroner (£613).

Nashet Blank is a 40 years old. He travelled from Syria to Denmark four months ago with his wife and three children. They sold all of their valuables to be able to travel through Europe – their wedding bands included. His phone and wallet mean nothing to him. He estimates that the combined value of his personal effects can’t be more than 500 kroner (£51).

Ahmad Farman is 25 years old and from Iraq. He came to Denmark five months ago. All of his possessions are of equal importance to him, though his phone contains several photos that are especially significant to him. He estimates that it’s all worth a total of 1500 kroner (£153).

How Australia is inspiring Europe’s immigration policies


Posted: 18 Jan 2016 06:27 AM PST

My column in the Guardian:

Australia first introduced onshore detention facilities in 1991 at Villawood in Sydney and Port Hedland in Western Australia. Mandatory detention came in 1992. Bob Hawke’s government announced it was because “Australia could be on the threshold of a major wave of unauthorised boat arrivals from south-east Asia, which will severely test both our resolve and our capacity to ensure that immigration in this country is conducted within a planned and controlled framework”.

More than 20 years later, the rhetoric has only worsened against the most vulnerable arriving from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka. Policies that years ago seemed unimaginable, such as imprisoning refugees on remote Pacific islands, are the norm and blessed with bipartisan support.

The sad reality is Australia’s refugee policies are envied and copied around the world, especially in Europe, now struggling to cope with a huge influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Walls and fences are being built across the continent in futile attempts to keep out the unwanted. A privatised security apparatus is working to complement the real agenda. Australia is an island but it has long implemented remote detention camps with high fences and isolation for its inhabitants.

As a journalist and activist who has publicly campaigned against Canberra’s asylum policies for over a decade, this brutal reality is a bitter pill. In early 2014 I called for UN sanctions against Australia for ignoring humanitarian law and willfully abusing refugees in its case both on the mainland and Nauru and Manus Island. I still hold this view but must recognise facts; the international mood in 2016 for asylum seekers is hostile. As much as I’d like to say that my homeland is a pariah on the international stage, it’s simply not the case.

When Denmark recently introduced a bill to take refugees’ valuable belongings in order to pay for their time in detention camps, this was remarkably similar to Australia charging asylum seekers for their stay behind bars. Either directly or indirectly, Europe is following Australia’s draconian lead.

Consider the facts in Europe: after Sweden and Denmark reintroduced border controls, a borderless continent is now in serious jeopardy. The Schengen agreement – introduced in 1985 to support free movement between EEC countries – is on the verge of collapse. In early January, the European Union admitted it had relocated just 0.17% of the refugees it pledged to help four months earlier. In 2015 more than 1 million people arrived by boat in Europe.

This mirrors Australia’s lacklustre efforts to resettle refugees in its onshore detention camps. Figures released by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in December found that asylum seekers had spent an average of 445 days behind barbed wire. In both Australia and Europe there’s general acceptance of these situations because those seeking asylum have been so successfully demonised as potential terrorists, suspiciously Muslim and threatening a comfortably western way of life.

Germany, a nation that took in more than 1 million refugees in 2015 despite being unprepared for the large numbers, is now facing a public backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance, leading to fear and rising far-right support. Australia has taken far fewer people with little social unrest and yet still unleashed over two decades a highly successful, though dishonest, campaign to stigmatise boat arrivals. The result is the ability of successive Australian governments to create an environment where sexual abuse against refugees is tolerated and covered up. A politician is unlikely to lose his job over it.

Europe and Australia promote themselves as regions of openness. It’s an illusion when it comes to refugee policy. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, despite his bombastic and discriminatory attitude towards refugees and Jews, is increasingly viewed across Europe as providing necessary warnings of the continent’s struggles. EU officials in Brussels told the New York Times that Orban was often right but wished he hadn’t couched his comments in conspiracy theories. Too few in Hungary are publicly resisting this wave of racism.

“Whenever Hungary made an argument the response was always: ‘They are stupid Hungarians. They are xenophobes and Nazis,’” Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told the Times. “Suddenly, it turns out that what we said was true. The naivete of Europe is really quite stunning.”

Brussels has proposed an Australian-style border force to monitor the EU’s borders and deport asylum seekers. Germany and France support the move. This proves that the most powerful nations have little interest in resolving the reasons so many people are streaming into Europe (such as war and climate change) and prefer to pull up the drawbridge. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott encouraged Europe to turn back the refugee boats and it seems Brussels is listening. Europe is also copying Australia’s stance of privatising the detention centres for refugees.

None of this worries Rupert Murdoch’s Australian. In light of the New Year’s Eve sex attacks in Cologne, the paper editorialised in early 2016 that Europe must avoid “reckless idealism” and embrace an “enlightened world” where gender equality is accepted by all. The outlet has not expressed similar outrage with the immigration department’s blatant disregard for refugee lives. It’s also unclear how pushing for military action in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and other Muslim nations, pushed by the paper for years, contributes to an “enlightened world”.

It’s comforting to think of Australia as a global pariah on the world stage, pursuing racist policies against asylum seekers from war-torn nations. But it’s untrue. Canberra’s militarised “solution” to refugees is admired in many parts of Europe because it represents an ideology far easier to process and sell than identifying and adapting to changing global migration patterns.

None of this should stop activists fighting for a more just outcome, in both Australia and Europe, but today it’s more likely European officials will ask Australian officials for advice on how to “stop the boats” than chastise it for mistreating a raped refugee.

Australia has become an inspiration for all the wrong reasons.


Helping Syrians survive winter

$** would allow us to provide fuel, heaters and blankets to ensure that these people survive winter.
Mzahem Alsaloum

Contact  Voir plus d’informations

Very soon, there will be a volunteering campaign to be launched in the Northern of Syria for IDPs` families of over 500 people from the city of Deir Ezzor, due to the march of ISIL forces towards the Northern of Syria. In fact, those families live under extremely harsh circumstances, where they have no shelter, no resources, and no food (they are dwelling in the open areas and abandoned ruined houses, with no windows, doors, or even any piece of furniture).

Therefore, the campaign is designed to provide heating devices, blankets, and diesel. Also,it will be providing all necessary items to fight the up- coming freezing winter, that is estimated to last for over six months( with possible harsh snow storms-that could last for over 20 days-, according to the weather reports)

There will also be a fully-documented process for the entire campaign( formal receipts, videos of distribution, etc).

Speaking the language of figures, it is worth mentioning that only ($50) can provide full coverage for one person of those families. So, with only ($50) you can save somebody`s life throughout this campaign. No limitations on the number of people you want to sponsor, so, you can protect as many people as you can, with only($50).

All the above-mentioned cases( including the elderly, women and children) cannot provide themselves with the minimum living standards, so in providing assistance to them, you are actually saving their lives, for warmth means life in the midst of the freezing winter.

All documentation papers and videos will be available on the following link:

Attention point: The minimum amount of the donation does not include the taxes imposed by the assurance companies, therefore, providing the minimum amount of donation does not mean providing the required amount of warmth for the families.

سيكون هنالك حملة تطوعية في ريف حلب الشمالي لـ 500 شخص من عوائل نازحين من ريف ديرالزور بسبب تنظيم داعش نحو ارياف الشمال السوري، هؤلاء النازحين لا يوجد اي أحد يدير لهم بالاً لذلك يعيشون ظروفاً سيئة للغاية حيث أنهم لا يمتلكون قوت يومهم ويعيشون في العراء او منازل بدائية لا يوجد لها حتى شبابيك او نصف مكتملة او ينامون في ابنية مكشوفة على صفائح توتياء.

ستتضمن الحملة شراء مدافئ وديزل وبطانيات وكل مستلزمات تحمّل الشتاء كاملة عن 5 أشهر من الشتاء والبرد القارس، يمر خلالها 3 عواصف شديدة سيكون 2 منها طولها 15-20 يوماً، وستكون من اقسى العواصف التي مرت على المنطقة.

وسيكون هنالك عمليات توثيق من خلال فواتير رسمية بالاضافة الى فيديوهات وصور عن كامل الحملة وعمليات الشراء والتوزيع.

تستطيع أن تكفل شخص بـ 50$ تشمل تدفئته خلال الشتاء كاملة، حيث أنه بعد وضع خطة ودراسة للأمر ستكفل الـ 50$ هذه تدفئة كل شخص من هؤلاء لفترة الشتاء كاملة وستبقيهم على قيد الحياة بمعدل الحد الأدنى من المتطلبات الإنسانية للشخص الواحد كي يستطيع تحمّل أعباء الشتاء القاسي.

كل 50$ تكفي شخص واحد، دون تحديد لعدد الاشخاص الذي تستطيع كفالتهم.

ان جميع الحالات المشمولة في الحملة لا يستطيعون تأمين ما يأكلونه في يومهم لذلك تأمين هذا الحد الادنى من التدفئة لهم يعني انقاذ حياة الكثيرين منهم وبينهم أطفال ونساء وشيوخ، وتعني بالتأكيد انقاذ صحتهم وكرامتهم الانسانية جميعاً من ناحية التدفئة خلال فترة الشتاء كاملة.

سيتم اتاحة كافة الوثائق والصور والفيديو للحملة وصرف المبالغ على الرابط التالي:

تنويه : الحد الأدنى لا يشمل الضرائب المفروضة من الموقع ومن ادارة شركات الائتمان والتحويلات الخارجية، لذلك الوصول للحد الأدنى لا يعني الحصول على القدر الكافي لاتمام عملية التدفئة.

SYRIA – The long journey of a Syrian refugee (part 2/3): Turkey’s bad guys*


The Redaction of The Maghreb and Orient Courier publishes the story of Nori, a 21-years-old Syrian refugee, in three parts (in its issues of September, October and December)*. Nori told our correspondent the story of a journey towards life. He was a citizen of Homs and after his family had fled the war and his brother had died, nothing kept him in his city. He decided to leave his city behind, and the violence, war and misery that went with it. Here is his story.



On Friday, 17th of October (2015) I met my friend in Antakya, he rented a house for his family, that was coming from Syria… I had not seen him in five years. We had one good week together. I felt free and safe. We spoke a lot and went for walks outside. After one week, I moved to Reyhanli city, which is about 30 kilometers East of Antakya, to meet another of our friends; he was in an hospital. There, I spent ten days among their sufferings… I saw unexpected situations, and how badly the responsible men treated the wounded. I decided to stay.

SYRIA - October 2015 - Amhed SAYED'

After a while, the patients organised a small ‘revolution’ and got rid of the head of the service and his assistants, kicking them out of the house with their crutches and walking sticks… They chose my wounded friend to become the new bearer of responsibility. They wanted to depend on themselves -my friend told me I could help them and would even receive a salary. But I declined and said that I had come to Turkey to be free and not to stay in a place of suffering. Very soon they obtained new supporters and more money every month… Their lives changed for the better, they had fun every day, money was distributed a few times a week …

But I thought, I must get to work, so I called a friend in Adana to find me a job; there are a lot of Syrian refugees in Turkey… He told me to visit him and then he could find a job for me. I did not really have any trouble with the Turkish language, because I had taken some lessons in my village, near Homs. At my friend’s house, his family inquired about every thing concerning their house, neighbours, relatives and the position in the city…. They were so happy to see a man from our city… After three days, their neighbour found me a job in the Imam Oğlo village in a wheat grinding mill, about 40 kilometres West of Adana, and I agreed. He gave me the address and told me that I could just go to the place.

At the beginning, I felt happy about the good treatment by the boss. There was a twenty-year old guy working with me; his name was Musa. And a fifty-year old man called Mevlud (he used to tell me about his five fantastic years in Germany, as an illegal resident).

Day after day, the boss depended on me concerning everything in the place; I was student in engineering, in Homs University, and I began to be very helpful in managing his business… He taught me how all things work; everything about wheat and corn, dealing with the customers and how I scale the full cars when they came… There was also an old man; his name was Recep. His father was Bulgarian and every night I used to sit with him for about two hours. He only knew Turkish, but I could understand. His job was to guard the place at night; he became expendable because I would sleep in the office, so there was no need for him.

Although the boss was drinking with him every night, he got rid of him to save money…

The owner of the place is my boss’ brother who has a big factory in Ankara. After about twenty days he told Musa that he was not needed anymore. I told Musa that I would find another job for him to do, so that the boss would need him again…

At the end of the month, the boss did not give me the whole salary of 800 Turkish Liras he promised. He said he did not have enough money! After a while, three guys from Homs came to work at the same place but they had a hard job with corn; the boss brought Kurdish workers to do this job for a lot of money, but he became happy to exploit the Syrians for less money…

When we have a day off on Sunday, the boss drove with us to Adana and stayed with us, watching us… I don’t know why!

One day, he asked my friend to work all the night, but in fact, he couldn’t… I was translating for my friends and advising them what to do…  He had no problem for them to give up the work, but he needed me… So, he gave them all their money and only a little to me, because he thought that maybe I would go with my friends… Something he wished to avoid.

So, he planned a game for me, with his local police friends…

One afternoon, two policemen came and asked me for the Turkish ID card, and I showed them my Syrian card… They arrested me.

They told me on our way to the police station that I had stolen 15 Liras from the market, at five o’clock this day, and showed me a picture of the bicycle standing in front of the grind mill place – I did not know what they meant to communicate with it… We arrived at the station and four policemen wanted me to say that I stole the 15 Lira from the market, in a bakery. But I insisted that I did not understand them and that I needed a translator; when you are refugee, it is better to communicate with a translator than with bad policemen…

After a moment, one of them started beating me. But I did not fight back… because they are policemen… We know that very well in Syria.

They brought the poor baker in and asked him whether I was the one who stole the money and he said yes … I think they had simply asked a poor man to say so for some coins.

Finally, after two hours of waiting and investigations, the translator came; he told me just to tell them that I stole the money and they would let me free. But I told him that I have never stolen anything, so why would I steal 15 Liras? I also used to give poor people more money when I was in Adana. The translator told them that I refused to admit. Then they told him to convince me that I was dealing with security and they could put me into prison for long time. I answered him that I prefer to be in prison for ever and die there than to steal…

My boss then entered, perfectly times – I think he was preparing for his role next to the door – he said that on Sunday morning at five I was with him, he was driving me and my friends to Adana… He continued, that the robbery was on Sunday in Imam Oğlu and that I was in Adana…. Then he told the policemen to leave me … and that I was innocent.

We came back for work and I understood why he had planned all this story…

First, he would get my freedom – anytime I would decide to go, he would make problems for me, threatening about the robbery. Second, I must always work and do not receive all my money… So, I planned my game to change things, I told the boss that my brother would be in Turkey soon and I must bring him here. I asked him if my brother could work here and he gladly accepted.

But on the next Sunday I couldn’t go to Adana because the police said that I must not leave the village until eight days after the incident…

So, I decided to leave my job not on Saturday or Sunday but I simply left without getting my whole pay… I prepared myself at seven in the morning, and when Mevlut came to open the office, I told him that my brother was waiting for me in Reyhanli, and I had to go, so he should give me my money. But he said that he had to ask the boss – he called the boss, but the boss did not answer… Because every night the boss drinks too much and then talks with girls on the phone… Mevlut told me that I should go to his house, but I refused and insisted to have my money. Eventually he gave me half of it, leaving about 100 euros with them. I then took another way, a shortcut to Reyhanli where I had contacts that could help me further.

After few months, I became a bit mad… Where was my life?

I contacted a Belgian friend… He is journalist; I met him in Tal-Biseh, my village, near Homs, at the beginning of the revolution. He came to us; he was the first European journalist I saw.

I told him that I was thinking to go back to Syria; impossible for me to continue this life in Turkey… I thought to go to the governorate of Idleb, to find a job; Sarmada was still a lively city, but maybe not for a long time… I didn’t know what to do… He helped me to find a job in Istanbul: he gave me contacts, and one of his Syrian friends in Istanbul welcomed me… I told the guys of Reyhanli that I must leave and they gave me some money, but I refused.

I got to Istanbul and I started working as a painter, earning good money… My new boss and the workers were Kurdish; they were very good people and they became friends. I remain in contact with them until now – I even learned a little bit of Kurdish language with them.

About three months later, our job was done and there were no more jobs for us to find… The three Kurdish workers were refugees too… So, we decided to go to Europe, to rebuild our life.

With my three new friends, we travelled to Greece; from Aderna, by foot. When we got there, we understood that we were not the only refugees wanting a better life in Europe: we met a lot of Syrians who had tried many times to cross the border, but in vain… To tell the true, I knew it: I had a friend in Lebanon, a refugee too; he also wanted to come to Turkey. His plan was to travel through the sea, on one of these “boats of death”. This trip was our last solution to find our life again and a future…

So, we decided to sail to Greece. But we did not have enough money for that… Turkish guys who organize the refugees business with the boats ask a lot of money…


Humans of the Refuge

“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):
Background information: The Local (ES):
Proactiva Open Arms facebook page: Proactiva Open Arms

Oscar Camps, a volunteer lifeguard from Proactiva Open Arms, carries a young boy after a boat carrying nearly 300 refugees capsized near the Greek Island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish Coast. 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. Photo: Santi Palacios/AP
Volunteer lifeguards from Proactiva Open Arms, scramble ski jets to rescue drowning people after a boat carrying nearly 300 refugees capsized near the Greek Island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish Coast. 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. Photo: Jeanne Carstensen
A volunteer lifeguard from Proactiva Open Arms, rescues a refugee after a boat carrying nearly 300 refugees capsized near the Greek Island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish Coast. 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. Photo: Proactiva Open Arms (File Photo)
A volunteer lifeguard from Proactiva Open Arms, carries a young girl after a boat carrying nearly 300 refugees capsized near the Greek Island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish Coast. 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. Photo: Proactiva Open Arms (File Photo).
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