A photo was distributed to media organizations throughout the world from Sea-Watch, a humanitarian organization working in the Mediterranean south of Italy where boatloads of refugees continue to cross the dangerous stretch of sea from the northern coast of Africa.
While the epicenter of the crisis seems to have shifted from Greece’s islands to Italy— for now— the media circus is also dying down. A year ago we received daily reports of thousands of refugees arriving on various Greek islands, smuggled from the Turkish coast.
This story, although not a Greek-centric one, which this website covers, is part of the bigger refugee crisis in Europe that has impacted Greece more than any other country. In fact, it continues to impact Greece as more than 50,000 refugees are stuck in the financially strapped nation.
This photo— and the fact that an estimated 8000 people have lost their lives trying to reach Europe in the past few years, is further proof that European refugee policies have failed.
In the photo is a lifeless baby— part of a group of some 45 bodies which were plucked from the waters last week and taken to the southern Italian port of Reggio Calabria, in the arms of a rescuer.
The German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch, operating a rescue boat in the sea between Libya and Italy, distributed the picture that was taken on board one of its rescue vessels showing a rescuer cradling the child like a sleeping baby.
In an email, the rescuer, who gave his name only as Martin but did not want his last name revealed, said he had spotted the baby in the water “like a doll, arms outstretched”.
“I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive … It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes.”
The rescuer, a father of three and by profession a music therapist, added: “I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive.”
Not much is known about the child we’ve decided to name Baby John/Jane Doe, who according to Sea-Watch was immediately handed over to the Italian navy. Rescuers could not confirm whether the partially clothed infant was a boy or a girl and it is not known whether the child’s mother or father are among the survivors, or the 45 victims of the shipwreck.
“In the wake of the disastrous events it becomes obvious to the organizations on the ground that the calls by EU politicians to avoid further death at sea sum up to nothing more than lip service,” Sea-Watch said in a statement in English distributed along with the photograph.
“If we do not want to see such pictures we have to stop producing them,” Sea-Watch said, calling for Europe to allow migrants safe and legal passage as a way of shutting down people smuggling and further tragedies.