In October, I travelled to Lesvos, the frontline of Europe’s refugee crisis. I’ve been trying to work out ever since what it is that makes it so hard to forget.
We are not used to seeing loss first-hand, the bereaved families and interrupted lives.
But it isn’t just that. I’ve read numerous blogs by photographers and war correspondents who have seen death and destruction on a far wider scale yet can’t seem to get over Lesvos either.
I think it’s because these deaths in Europe are so infinitely avoidable. It isn’t dangerous to get to Greece from Turkey. A big, safe ferry crosses into Lesvos three times a week. But our border regime stops refugees from catching it. So they sell up and risk their lives, and those of their children, in smugglers’ boats to Europe.
By contrast, the dangers of the wars that refugees are fleeing are well known. Yet the deaths on our border are a result of the order that we impose on the world, not the chaos of conflict. Whatever logic has led us to this point, the result is madness, one that goes against every human instinct.
This Big Story adds New Internationalist’s voice to the chorus of outrage at our governments’ handling of the refugee crisis, but also draws hope from the humanity of those citizens who are rebelling against the securitization of the border, by helping people over it.
This month we also explore the camp at Calais, thanks to a cartoon supplement by Kate Evans, told with her characteristic warmth and humour.
Hazel Healy for the New Internationalist co-operative.
On the frontlines of the refugee crisis in Lesvos, Hazel Healy finds loss, humanity – and answers.
In a taverna overlooking Molyvos harbour, exhausted Greek coastguards have come off shift and are drinking in a huddle. They have just pulled 242 refugees out of the water, in the worst shipwreck off the shores of Lesvos since the refugee crisis began last year.
By 1.30am there is only one man left in the bar, Yanis Stipsanos, the vice-mayor of Molyvos. ‘Too many people have died at my place,’ he says, his face like thunder. ‘I didn’t kill them. Turkey killed them.’ He thinks for a moment. ‘E...