A Belfast man who spent two weeks in Lesbos saving desperate Syrian refugees has returned home to raise a permanent rescue team of volunteers to work full-time on the Greek island.
Musician and human rights activist, Joby Fox has set up a new website, www.refugeerescue.co.uk to call on volunteers to go to the crisis-stricken island and to raise funds for vital life-saving equipment including a rescue boat to help pluck exhausted people from the sea.
He said the number of volunteers and organisations operating on the island are pitifully inadequate to meet the sheer volume of refugees trying to make it to safety.
“The big problem is that the smugglers on the Turkish side launch the refugees in dinghies which are totally unsuitable for that particular stretch of sea. Lives are lost daily. This is a war without bombs, which we must win to help the pointless loss of innocent human life.
“I am asking people to help raise funds for a boat to help these disenfranchised and beleaguered people. I will also help co-ordinate an action team whose task it is to guide the refugees in with lights to avoid rocks”.
The team will work with other groups to provide medical care, dry clothes, and transport, especially for the children. Joby and the group will be leaving in three weeks and will bring over equipment such as industrial heaters to help those suffering from with hypothermia.
He will assess and train potential volunteers to ensure they have the ability to work as a team in this very challenging environment.
He said: “There is a lot going on and your first instinct is to run around trying to save people. We need fit, cool heads, people who can work as part of a team and stay in formation. When the boats come in, it is vital to provide heat and light.”
During his time in Lesbos, Joby worked with a Swiss team helping to pull men, women and children from the sea. There have been thousands of deaths by drowning since May this year, with approximately 5,000 refugees using the crossing every day.
The small Greek island has a Northern coastline facing Turkey stretching for 10km. The narrow Mytilini Strait is approximately nine km across, making it the main crossing point from Turkey to Lesbos by refugees both from Syria and Afghanistan.
Joby said the crisis of refugees taking this perilous journey stems back to the beginning of both wars in these countries.
“Most refugees live in land-locked countries and have never even seen the sea. All are put on the boats by smugglers and often at gun-point.
The smugglers launch these boats at all times of the night and day and the weather can be awful, bad winds and dangerous seas are common place.”
Anyone interested in joining a Northern Ireland team to help relieve suffering in Lesbos or to provide funds for equipment should visit www.refugeerescue.co.uk