We are delighted to announce a new partnership with Refugee Rescue, to support search and rescue efforts for migrants who continue to seek safety by undertaking highly dangerous sea crossings to Europe.
Our new Refugee Fund Partner, Refugee Rescue, was first founded in response to the inadequate search and rescue provision after 2015 when thousands of displaced people began arriving on Lesvos. Based on the island’s north shores in the village of Skala Sikamineas, Refugee Rescue’s operations include a skilled onshore volunteer team and a search and rescue (SAR) boat crew who are on call 24/7. Using a customised, specialist ex-RNLI Atlantic 75 speedboat named ‘Mo Chara,’ the crew are able to quickly reach those in peril.
Every day, people still attempt the journey across the perilous Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesvos. Many set sail in small dinghies or overloaded wooden boats that break up or sink amid one of the world’s most dangerous migratory routes.
Wearing useless or ill-fitting life jackets, dozens disappear overboard and drown. Smugglers also frequently leave families to perish on lethal rocks and inaccessible beaches. There is no helicopter rescue service to help them, and even those who survive the crossing are often suffering hypothermia when they reach land. Despite increased militarisation and security of the sea borders, the number of lives lost while crossing the Eastern Mediterranean almost tripled last year. Over half of the refugees making this journey have arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos. With a vast area of ocean to monitor, the Hellenic Coast Guard and European Border Forces are simply ill-equipped to reach and rescue victims.
Manned 24 hours a day, this is the only legitimate humanitarian search and rescue organisation in the area, and its vital operations include helping those trapped at the base of inaccessible cliffs as well as guiding fragile dinghies to safe landing zones. An onshore team keeps watch along the coast, with volunteers trained in emergency communications and equipped to identify boats in distress.
By working in conjunction with Refugee Rescue, we aim to prevent many hundreds of lives being needlessly lost in the Aegean Sea.