The morning after arriving in Italy we woke and it was still blowing hard. The coast guard appeared in a high-speed rib, full of bedraggled looking figures wrapped in foil survival blankets. Yoannia (from Calyxia) and I walked over to see what was going on. They were refugees, I have read a lot about the refugees in the Med, but seeing these people and their arrival in the flesh makes it much more real.
The coast guard boat contained 7 young children, I guessed all under 10, 6 women and 2 men. I found the whole scene quite emotional. These people had endured a very windy and rough night in an ocean that I would have found scary in a 40ft yacht, never mind a small, poorly maintained boat. They had arrived in Italy with nothing. No bags, no documents, no money and they could not speak the language. They just sat there looking at us wide eyed and fearful.
I was shocked by how unprepared the authorities were. They unloaded the people and sat them on the concrete wharf. They were wet, tired and had clearly been through an ordeal. The Italians appeared to have no food or water to give them. No shelter. They treat them respectfully, but seemed unprepared.
Yoannia and I headed back to Calyxa and Vega to get water, food and some sweets for the kids. We took it over and the both the coast guard and the refugees seemed incredibly grateful. They had all come on the same boat, but were from very different countries. Some looked to be African and some of middle eastern origin.
Half an hour later another coat guard boat arrived, this time full of men. By this time the coast guard had put a cordon up and we had been asked to leave. We watched on as the men were disembarked from the boat, searched and then sat on the wharf next to the first boats occupants.
Most Refugees entering Italy do so much further south. From talking to the authorities in very poor English (My Italian is non existent) I believe these people had made their way overland to Albania. From there they can’t get north as Croatia has shut its boarder so they took to a boat on the Albanian coast and headed for Italy. This is quite a new migrant route, which may explain why the authorities in Otranto apearred unprepared.
After an hour or so later a coach arrived and took them away. Let’s hope that their journey ends soon and they can get on with their lives.
Great stuff Richard, nice to see you doing what you could for them. Also enjoying the posts – keep it up so we can all continue to live vicariously through you guys!