Drowning in the Aegean
In 2015, over 1M migrants attempted to cross the narrow but dangerous stretch of water from Turkey to Greece. 3,771 people drowned during their attempt.*
Local rescue services were under-equipped and overwhelmed.
‘We wrote a new page in the chapter of mass rescue with unprecedented situations even for us,’ says Hellenic Rescue Team Secretary General, Konstantinos Mitragas. ‘2015 was the most difficult year that we have ever faced as a rescue team. We lived absolute horror. There were many casualties, among them many children, which is the thing that affects you most.’
RNLI partners in Lesvos
The view from Lesvos – HRT Crew Member Naomi Krauzig
‘I saw a refugee mother arriving with a 1-day‐old baby. She had given birth on the boat. It was something that stayed on my mind. So I came down to the marina and asked what the Hellenic Rescue Team was doing, and if I could join them.
‘When we get a call, in 30 minutes we must be on the sea. Usually we have a crucial time of 1 hour to find a person in the water. You don’t know if the person is in a boat, in the water, if they’re wearing a life jacket or not. So you have to plan how to find that person, and how to rescue them.’
The difference we’re making together
Our immediate response was to send essential lifesaving equipment to the HRT, which was distributed to stations across the Aegean. In 2016 we gave the Lesvos team two Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboats already earmarked for disposal. We then supported the volunteers with training and mentoring to use these lifeboats safely and effectively.
By early 2017, HRT Lesvos volunteers were ready to respond, day or night - and with a plan in place to sustain the branch, crew numbers were growing with local training in place to match.
The EU-Turkey refugee deal (March 2016) means that far fewer people are attempting the crossing to Greece today. But Lesvos now has a capable lifeboat service that can save anyone in danger around its coastline - whether they’re on a refugee dinghy, fishing vessel or tourist boat.
- *The IOM counts 3,771 Migrant Fatalities in the Mediterranean in 2015 (International Organization for Migration story)
- Lifesaving support in the Greek Islands (RNLI Magazine story)
- Greek Volunteers share UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award (UNHCR story)
- Refugees rescue operation conducted by HRT Lesvos (HRT story)
Our international vision is of a world in which no-one should drown. Could you help us towards this vision?Donate today
3,771 refugees drowned in the Aegean in 2015
2 Atlantic 75 lifeboats in operation
21 crew members trained in 2017
29 launches in 2017