Refugee Rescue, an organisation run by Northern Ireland volunteers, which has saved the lives of 3,700 people from the waters around the Greek island of Lesvos this year, has written to businesses to help it continue.
Refugee Rescue, set up by singer-songwriter Joby Fox, artist Jude Bennet and Michael Cecil, captain of the Rathlin Island Ferry, continues to deploy the rescue boat Mo Chara to help people attempting the treacherous crossing from Turkey to Lesvos.
Refugee Rescue is running low in funds and is appealing for local businesses to help to keep this vital operation going.
At its height, thousands of refugees were attempting the crossing every day to escape the war in Syria, causing an international crisis. As numbers fell, the world’s attention turned to other issues, leaving Refugee Rescue to hold the line, helping the desperate people still attempting to cross from Turkey.
The group’s efforts were highlighted in a recent BBC Documentary, The Crossing, which showed the great difficulties providing this kind of operation in desperate and difficult circumstances.
Michael Cecil, the Chair of Refugee Rescue and part time skipper of the ‘Mo Chara’, said the organisation was dependent on goodwill to provide life-saving services.
“We work in a highly intensive environment where our small vessel can reach people in distress better than any vessel available to the Greek Coast Guard and EU border guards. This gives us the edge, and in turn makes our team indispensable. Two and half years later, whilst the numbers may have reduced from those chaotic times, there are still people – families and children – taking the perilous journey every day,” he said.
In early 2017 the European Union did a deal with Turkey to confront the then prolific smuggling network that had emerged along the Turkish coast. To a large degree this stemmed the flow of people crossing. As a result the smuggling operation moved to the Mediterranean and many of the NGOs followed suit. However, to this day Refugee Rescue maintain its operation within this narrow but deadly part of the Aegean Sea.
Joby Fox, co-founder of Refugee Rescue said: “We are holding the line here while all the focus is on the Mediterranean, for understandable reasons, but we are dealing with serious life and death situations almost daily here. This crossing has now been largely forgotten but we have assisted 3,700 people since the start of 2018. This year we have also seen a 20 percent month on month increase of people arriving on the North Shore of Lesvos.
“When you understand the small scale of the area we are working in these are truly shocking figures – but of course they are not just figures, they are people, most of them women and children. We are in desperate need of extra resources to maintain the boat and a skeleton staff. We need help, and we need it now.”
Refugee Rescue is a registered UK charity and is calling out for funds but particularly corporate sponsorships. The organisation is calling on businesses and individuals to take initiatives to fundraise and donate via refugeerescue.co.uk