Wednesday 12 August 2015

Traces of Mediterranean Refugees

In August 2015, I took a brief seashore walk around the Bitez peninsula, near Bodrum, a popular holiday destination in Turkey.

I noticed a pile of leftover clothes, blankets, backpacks and socks on the rocks - discarded items of refugees who had spent the previous night on the spot. Bodrum is very close to the Greek island of Kos, which is a main destination for Middle Eastern refugees seeking shelter in Europe. Every night, groups of refugees were boarding boats operated by human traffickers and heading to the Koan shores. This, apparently, was one of their pick-up points. I had been hearing about the Mediterranean refugee crisis for a while now, but this was the first time I found actual evidence of it.

 Seeing the refugees' leftovers made me uneasy with sadness and more than a little guilt. Only ten meters from this spot stood the beach club where affluent Turks (including myself), enjoyed carefree vacations.

Encounters like this were very common this summer. Eager to make them part of someone else's problem, Turkish authorities were turning a blind eye to the invisible legions passing through their territory. A few days after I found these traces, a band of refugees came ashore, apparently from a failed crossing attempt, next to a seaside hotel where guests were having morning yoga practice. This collusion of worlds was photographed, and made it to the national news.

The Mediterranean is no stranger to mass migration. "Sea people" have plied its waters every few generations. I wonder how the current crisis will be resolved, and what kind of world it will result in.

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