Australian life-saver Simon Lewis is back home after a 10-day turbulent experience off the Greek island of Lesbos. Lewis was a part of an international team that took on an active part in saving more than 500 asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Sea. According to Lewis, he witnessed at least 31 drownings in the span of 10 days.
“While we were there we had 31 people drowned on the Turkish side,” the ABC quoted him as saying. “We put ourselves in that situation to help people from drowning, and yet because it’s across the way in international water you’re restricted and you can’t do anything about it. It put a very sad mood.”
He said that on his first day on the beach, within only an hour of arriving, they received 200 refugees in a boat. His team immediately formed a human chain to help the refugees.
“Holding a child, seeing its scared-and-crying face, and passing it on to the Norwegian, the German, the French and other volunteers – it was like the international community just coming together,” the SBS quoted him as saying.
Lewis, who is the captain of the St Kilda Surf Life Saving Club, said that around 2,000 refugees arrived at the place during the time he was there. He added that the asylum seekers came in inflatable boats that ran on fake Chinese engines. Even the life jackets they wore were fake. According to him, it is the lowest budget journey one would ever think of putting their families on, but to these people it was better than staying on land and that explained their situation.
About 113 people died in the first three weeks of the year while attempting to cross the sea. Under the international law though, even life-savers can be accused of smuggling people if they try to help boats that aren’t sinking. Lewis said that they only helped when they got permission from the Greek authorities to do so.