Turkey has a lot of tourist destinations and Bodrum is one of the most famous places to visit. Every year, the country sees tourists from numerous countries from all over the globe especially Europe. Sadly, migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and some parts of Africa see this as an opportunity to seek a better life in Europe. Most of them go through the Greek Islands of Kos and Kalymnos which are 2.5miles and 6miles west of Bodrum respectively. In Kos, the impact of this crisis has a divided opinion. For the time being, it has had no impact on tourism but there have been protests concerning the building of a new reception centre for refugees. They believe that these Islands are affluent and well-to-do. The migration often involves families of which children make up a third of the group. Sometimes, these migrants face casualties en route to their destination usually caused by overloading and eventual drowning or capsizing of the ferries. The departures can be ordered online depending on the type of boat, supervised by people smugglers for about €3000(three thousand euros), cheapest price was €2,500(two thousand and five hundred euros). It so happens to be a lucrative business. Smugglers lied to refugees that they will take bigger boat after going out of Bodrum. Their excuses were already ready they told to refugees they don’t want to be seen by police with big boat. But they never took that bigger boat. Smugglers took all refugees with small, damaged plastic or wooden boats.
Eleni Florianou is a teacher from Athens but lives in Kalymnos with her husband, Giannis. Together, they help refugees from the Middle East. Out of the goodness of her heart, she and her husband had to help the migrants because Greece is not a wealthy country. She and her husband ask for help from people through Facebook though they never ask nor accept any cash donations. They only accept foodstuff and clothing materials mostly.
In one of her experiences in January of 2016, the smugglers took about 86 people in a 20 seater boat. This is four times the weight the boat can handle still the need for a better life and desperation did not make the passengers to realize how dangerous their actions could be. Furthermore, the smugglers asked the passengers to throw their belongings into the sea which sadly shows that the lives of these passengers meant nothing to them, they were just money conscious.
Two of the people that survived are Nahid and Mustafa (18 and 17 years old respectively at the time) who were traveling with their parents and younger sister, Nastaran (7 years old at the time). In the event of the drowning, they reached out to their brother in Germany to help them and he called the German police who in turn called the Greece coast guards.
Elena is a Christian and the kids are Muslims but that did not define her relationship with them. Mustafa and Nahid were lied to by their psychologist who told them that their parents were in the hospital and they could not accept visitors at the time. But the lie could not continue for long. One night, Mustafa escaped their reception centre and went to the hospital in search of his parents and kid sister. He did not find them but found wet clothes of the dead ones hipped in a corner in the hospital. He searched until he found the ones of his parents and his sister. He and Nahid became emotionally distressed and unstable, it led them to become suicidal. Mustafa thinks Nastaran was rescued by the Turkish Coast Guards and believes that he will see her in the coming summer. With Elena and Giannis’ help, they got over it after some time. They devoted time to learning English and Greek. They made new friends in the process. Nahid was a religious. She always covered her head and was terrified of men. She eventually changed her perception and had male friends. They both left for Germany after a year to be with their brother and Elena visits them whenever she can.
‘How do these smugglers live with themselves’ is a question we cannot stop asking. They deceive desperate ones into taking such decisions even at the expense of their lives. Can we say illegal migration will be history in 10 years or maybe less? What is the future of the kids who find themselves in this situation? Some of these migrants are lucky to survive. What about the unlucky ones? Well, everyone has a part to play in ensuring that things like this gradually come to an end. Without the help of the government and individuals in the society, we can only expect worse to happen.
In the end, nothing else matters but love, care and compassion. Despite the religious differences, Elena, Mustafa and Nahid trusted each other and worked together to attain this great success. It is not every day you find people like Elena and a supporting husband like Giannis. Nahid visited the Church a few times with Elena and Elena also visited the Mosque with Nahid. This kind of crisis may not end and migration will continue. It is one of those cycles that cannot be easily broken. The government can only do so much. It is left with us to help out in ways the government cannot. Also, the government must find ways and create measures to apprehend these smugglers and curtail migration of this kind. They take advantage of the vulnerable and make illicit gains from their predicament. This story shows us that there is still hope about humanity. Never lose hope and help people as much as you can.
It’s an article based interview.