My Refugee Journey – 20th February 2016
After another long night at the Kara Tepe, I awake to a message from the head of HSA (Humanitarian Support Agency) asking for a meeting… Its become apparent that several small refugee boats are still getting to the shore of Lesvos undetected, making their journey more dangerous… So we decide to form an Emergency Unit to watch over the Sea between Turkey and Lesvos from near our Camp location – It’s named the Emergency Warning Unit, the aim is during the hours of 10pm to 6am to look out for small refugee boats that get past the naval/Coast Guard ships… And from the little news we get here I understand NATO have sent a small fleet to patrol the area but still the refugee boats are getting through.
So the afternoon is spent putting together an emergency bergan (rucksack)… Wetsuit and boots for the possibility of having to enter the water to help refugees if emergency response teams don’t reach my location in time… Night Vision Goggle, space blankets, medical kit, water, and for me out on the coastal OP (Observation Post) my army issue sleeping bag, Gortex jacket, warm kit and shelter… Shelter would prove to be the biggest problem.
I acquired a French Army Issue Poncho/Basha, a small bit of rope and a metal rod… When I got to the location just after 10pm that we had RECCE earlier in the day I set about putting up the shelter but with a very barren rocky area with just a couple of small bits of rope to tie down the poncho I did what I could but by 2am the shelter had collapsed and I decided that I would just put it away – from then on I just sat in my sleeping bag for the rest of the shift. I had no real action as in refugee boats making it to my area which I cover a 2km stretch of coast line, but I did see about 2:30am what looked to be a coast guard ship heading out to a small boat where it stopped and what looked like search lights were moving around on the ship which by now was stationary. So I guess a small refugee boat was rescued and the refugees taken to safety of Lesvos by the coast guard.
So that was my shift, a few things learnt and today I’ve been acquiring more kit to help build a better sturdy shelter for tonight. Just before the shift started I was informed that smugglers had started getting brave again as right on top of my OP location I was told that I may expect small boats coming in that have a smuggler driving the boat and so I had an emergency call number to get support out to me quickly if a boat arrived on my location in case of trouble. So my location is even though on a very barren part of coast line low in cover able to see but not be seen.
So Im now ready for my next night shift – Will head out to camp while its still light, sort the shelter and then get my head down at camp till I start at 10pm.