Caught in a Storm: Arrivals on Lesvos, 29 September 2017

On 29 September, 48 people arrived in Lesvos drenching wet and cold — all of which could have been prevented.

Last night — at the heels of Lighthouse Relief’s two year anniversary — we were reminded why the presence of our emergency response team in Lesvos remains vitally important.

Despite turbulent winds and heavy rains, our spotting and landing teams were fully operative and ready to be employed at a moment’s notice. At approximately 2:30 AM, they were informed of an expected dinghy arrival near the rocky cliffs of Korakas in Lesvos. Our spotting team conducted a comprehensive scan of the Northern shore from their vantage point in Korakas, but were unable to pinpoint the boat — likely because harsh winds had caused it to drift outside our area of observation.

Authorities on the waters were made aware of the anticipated incoming dinghy, but did not permit rescue boats to dispatch. This prevented a more thorough search for the dinghy along the Northern shore, which was imperative to ensure safe passage for those trapped in the storm.

Finally, at 3:30 AM it was confirmed that arrivals had landed in Molyvos, more than 15 km away from Korakas. This means that the boat had likely drifted in the cold rain for several kilometers.

The 48 people arriving were drenching wet, cold and scared. Many were women and young children. Our landing team responded immediately, providing emergency blankets, dry clothing and comfort, and remained with them in overnight transit. The situation could have been wholly avoided if authorities had permitted rescue teams to respond the moment they were made aware that a dinghy was likely in the sea.

In this context, the role of independent NGOs in documenting and responding to the situation in Lesvos is critically important. We remain committed to working with partners like Refugee Rescue to ensure safe passage for those seeking refuge — and speaking up when we aren’t able to do just that.

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