On 24 of April 2018 one year had passed since 22 people among them two children lost their lives in the boat accident north of Lesvos. Rescue teams managed many hours later to rescue two women alive, one of them pregnant in the 8th month.
Sylvie and Joelle and the little girl Victoria, born in Mitilini just one month later, came again to Lesvos to remember this year. Together with the rescue teams of Refugee Rescue / Mo chara and with the activists from Watch the Med Alarm Phone and Welcome to Europe they returned to the place the rescued women and also the dead bodies had been brought one year ago.
Also the spotting teams who still care every night at the beaches to spot boats on the way from the Turkish to the Greek side, Lighthouse relief and The Hope Project, joined the invitation to the three women.
On 22nd of April we travelled with the survivors on the ferry to Lesvos. At the ships restaurant we introduced them and their story to the crew who have been really touched to have survivors on board.
During our dinner officers of the crew came at the entrance of the restaurant obviously to see with their own eyes the survivors. We got very positive wishes from the crew for the future and an appreciation for making a memorial.
We all met in the morning of 24th of April in Skala Sikaminias. The rhib of Refugee Rescue, Mo Chara, drove out with a floral wreath to put it in the sea exactly at the place where the women have been found and the dead bodies collected.
In the meantime all people went to the beach and enrolled a 30 metres long list of all known names of people who died in the European borders the last years. 33.305 names, 33.305 stories, 33.305 deaths that should never have happened.
The following text was read in Greek and English and then Joelle sang a song of her home-country that she was singing in the sea while trying to keep up the hope to be rescued.
Sylvie made a prayer to thank god for giving them a new life.
After we had a minute of silence to remember the 22 dead travellers.
Returning to Skala Sikaminias promising to ourselves not to give up supporting the newcomers and continue rescuing.
It is now 8 years ago, that we from Welcome to Europe made the first memorial for dead Afghan people in Korakas, thanking the fishermen for rescuing a baby and her parents that day.
Since then many more people arrived on Lesvos and the other islands oft the Aegean. But also many died and never arrived to their dream. In Europe they wish to find peace and a respectful life.
The fisherman continue to rescue – but there are also the rescue and spotting teams to support and work together now. As long as the European borders remain closed and militarised, the only option for fleeing people will be to risk their lives and we all have to be there for them.
One week later we returned to Piraeus with the same ferry and hand over in the bord-restaurant the memorial speech from Skala Sikaminias to one of the crew members we know. He thanks and disappears and returns some time later. He says he read it loud in the kitchen and everyone was crying and that they all thank us for doing it. Even he adds the people from the second bord-restaurant called him to read it also to them.
Memorial speech Skala Sikaminias
24 April 2018
Today, we come together here in Skala Sikaminias to remember the dead of the European borders.
We come here together with Joelle, Sylvie and Victoria. They survived when their boat sank in the North of this island on 23rd of April 2017. In the many hours that they spent in the sea, before they were rescued, they both asked themselves where the others had disappeared.
22 travelers did not survive that day, among them 2 Syrian children, and were later collected by the authorities’ vessels and the rescue teams.
Only one month later, Joelle gave birth to Victoria here in Mitilini – and this little girl reminds us that life continues.
Still, every year the dying continues due to the Europe’s border regime. And every year we renew the promise to remember those who have died. We will work to ensure safe passage until the deaths at Europe’s borders stop.
Because it has not stopped – even though many of us have tried hard. In 2018, to this day, more than 559 people have been killed in the Mediterranean Sea. We have been in touch with many people who have survived shipwrecks – as well as people who have given testimonies of death on the routes, before people even reach the sea.
Today, we are here together with people who still have eyes on the water, spotting. People who are still on the sea, with Search and Rescue boats. People who were fishermen and became rescuers, who had to take the dead bodies from the sea. People who started a hotline for open communication, to try avoid all these deaths. People who held the relatives and friends of the drowned after they discovered the loss. People who shared parts of the way with the survivors.
All of us have not shut our eyes. We remember and we won’t forget.
We all feel shame, because these deaths highlight our failure in our attempt to stop this murderous regime and to create a welcoming Europe.
We remember our friends, whose lives were lost after they had managed to escape war, after they risked death when crossing one border after the other clandestinely, and after finally reaching Europe.
Here and today, we want to stop for a moment and create a space for all those who lost their lives. Remembering here means we save the stories of the uncounted who died at the borders of Europe. They died in the sea, they died at the deadly inner-European borders.
They had left their homes to change their lives. Their death is a death in search for freedom. And that concerns us all.
There have been, and will be, many more names and many more stories.
We will never forget all of them and today we want to remember especially the friends of Joelle and Sylvie.
We will remember them. All of them have families and friends they left behind – who cannot be here with us, because these borders separate them even now.
So let us speak out their names:
– Maman Nicole – she lives!
– Chochou – she lives!
– Gilaine – she lives!
– Sylvia – she lives!
– Tedy – he lives!
– Fati – he lives!
– Mali – he lives!
– Pider – he lives!
– Peter – he lives!
– Junior – he lives!
– The Syrian family with two children – they live!
– And the unidentified other 8 travellers that lost their lives in that boat – they live!
We will never forget them.
We promise to do our best to tear down the borders that caused their deaths.
We invite you to have a quiet moment in memory of them – and then to move on: to tear down the borders and to build a new, more welcoming Europe.
Refugee Rescue – Lighthouse Relief – The hope project – w2eu – Watch the Med Alarmphone
Memorial text in Greek: Μνημόσυνο 24.4. 2018-Greek
Memorial text in French: Memorial speech Skala Sikaminias-français
Video of the memorial ceremony: https://youtu.be/ZPF4bfqFvJc