What are we looking at?
That’s the main question we ask ourselves multiple times in the early mornings.
When we start, the night’s still pitch black. By now we know the different spots where the boat refugees may get on shore and we drive from spot to spot and back, trying to be everywhere at the same time. We look into the dark sea with our binoculars, shine the flashlight on already abandoned life vests and feel if they’re still wet, and listen whether we can hear voices or the sound of peddles rowing in the water.
This morning the Mediterranean was calmer than we’d seen before, allowing us to see every dot which may or may not be a refugee boat coming from Bodrum. Just when we were following a dot to make sure that if it would turn out to be a refugee boat, we would be there at the beach to welcome the refugees with water, food, and dry clothes after their – often long, tough, and frightening – journey, or to warn the Greek coast guards if the boat seemed to be in trouble, Razan spotted another dot. Again we were trying to make sense of this dot on the sea. Finally, through our binoculars we were able to see people peddling, but they still had a long way to go. I stayed behind to make sure we wouldn’t lose the dot, while the others continued following the other dot.
A bigger dot approached the smaller dot. The Greek coast guard, I suspected. But the big dot passed by the small dot and continued southwards. Then – after what I could have sworn was 30 minutes, but the time stamp of my recordings just told me it was only 5 minutes – the bigger dot turned again. This is when the video starts. In this case, I can tell you what we’re looking at: The Greek coast guard is approaching the refugee boat, the 2 boats kiss, then, I stopped recording to take out the binoculars. I could see each refugee get from their little rubber boat onto the Greek coast guard boat. Even though we see refugees and refugee boats arriving every morning now, I still find it hard to believe my eyes when I see these things happening. This is really happening. And I am standing here at the Kos’ coast watching it happen as it happens.
After all refugees got on board, the bigger dot started towing the smaller dot. I waited long enough to be sure they were going back to the harbour, contacted the others, and started heading there myself, to be there when the people, who were once small movements on a dot, but who are real people, would get to shore safely.
Almost every night there are also small dots that don’t make it.