To Kyma: A rescue in the Aegean Sea

The impressive picture of the little kid Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the shore of a Turkish beach after drowning deeply moves the soul of the Spanish lifeguard Oscar Camps. He then de-cides to leave back his company, his wife and his children and travels to the small Greek is-land of Lesbos, one of the hotspots of the refugees crisis in 2015. It is only ten kilometres far from Turkey. His fellow Gerard Canals follows him. They are the germ of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, set up with Oscar’s savings: 15.000 €.

They have no means and the challenge is huge: they daily cover the 17 most dangerous kilome-tres of the island, an area plenty of cliffs and pebble beaches where the dinghies used by the refugees disembark. The lifeguards help the overcrowded small boats to safely go ashore. Peo-ple coming are not only adults, but also newborns, children and even old people. Every packed dinghy holds between 40 and 50 people who run away from deadly violence in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. They just wear fake lifejackets and life preservers but they are frightened and most of them do not know how to swim.

Equipped only with flippers and dressed in wetsuits, the lifeguards jump every day into the sea to rescue people. Sometimes they also use the boats the refugees themselves abandon on the shores. Their determination and professionalism make up for the lack of resources: they are the only volunteers in the whole island who can ensure a safe disembarkment.

The basic hostel where they stay on the north coast of Lesbos has become in the rescue point of the island. They head off to the beaches every day from here and this is the place where the rest of the volunteers go to ask for help every time they watch a dinghy coming from the other side.

Neither the Greek government nor the big aid agencies have replied Oscar’s letters asking for help. But the lifeguards have earned the respect of both Greek guard coasts and the European border police, Frontex, unable to stop the powerful net of Turkish smugglers who had set up an illegal exodus business: each refugee pays an average of 1.200 euros for the 10-km-long jour-ney across the Aegean sea. Both the guard coasts and Frontex police know the Spanish life-guards are big heroes in a small island.

Their feat has gone around the world: many international media like the BBC, The New York Times, the CNN or Der Spiegel have shown their story and their humanity. But money runs out and winter is coming. If they do not achieve enough funding, the mission might be jeopardised. They cannot face the dangers of the Aegean Sea if they do not work with proper means, even less in winter, when the weather conditions are getting much worse. They need to be a bigger team, buy fast boats and cover the expenses of staying in the island. Dinghies do not stop arriving in Lesbos, an island forgotten by the European governments. In October alone, more than 110.000 people have reached its shores.

The humanitarian cause of the lifeguards has touched lots of people around the world, espe-cially after the sinking of a big wooden boat where nearly one hundred of people died. After knowing their feat, many people from all over the world have donated money to them. It will help them to stay longer in Lesbos so they will carry on saving lives and rescuing people.