Fleeing to seek refuge in Europe, thousands of people have died making the short sea crossing from Turkey to Lesvos. Setting off in flimsy rubber boats and wearing fake life jackets, many find themselves heading for rocks or sand banks that can readily capsize or sink a dinghy. Others abandoned by smugglers who drop them at beaches inaccessible via land. Our Search and Rescue crew and emergency response team are on call 24/7, working to prevent any more lives being needlessly lost to The Aegean.
Since the beginning of 2018, Refugee Rescue has directly assisted over 2500 people arriving to Lesvos by sea, over half of which we were women and children. As long as there is no option of safe and legal passage to Europe, people will continue risking their lives unnecessarily, forced to take what is now one of the world's most perilous migratory routes in search of refuge. Unfortunately, we are not currently active on Lesvos.
Make no mistake: our decision to suspend operations for the foreseeable future does not in any way mean that search and rescue is not still imminently needed off the North Shore of Lesvos. In fact, human rights violations on the Aegean have only intensified in the past few months - from authorities leaving people stranded at sea for hours, to illegal pushbacks on Greek waters - which have all made the journey from Turkey to Greece more perilous than ever for those seeking refuge.
While we suspend our operations in Lesvos, we will use the coming months to assess our next steps - whether it is returning to Greece at a future time, or elsewhere where our skills and assets can be supportive. This is not goodbye - not yet - but a commitment to monitor the situation closely so that we can best support our staff, donors, local communities, and most importantly, the people we serve.
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