“Are you a journalist or a spy?” asked the policeman.
“Who would I be spying for?” I replied, laughing.
“That I don’t know,” the policeman answered. He brought the night vision binoculars to his eyes again and scanned the dark horizon, ignoring me from now on. He talked over his radio with a coast guard boat a couple of miles offshore. It was easy to see, trolling back and forth. Sometimes it would switch on its orange flashlights and speed towards a rubber boat in distress. You could see the people be taken on board and then brought to the port, and then the patrol boat would leave again. It went like this all night, every night.
Apparently they had decided that this rubber boat was doing fine and its voyage not to be interrupted. I heard the yelling and screaming and chanting even before I could see them. Then the boat ran up the beach, about fifty people jumped out and started to dance around, pray, sing, yell “Allah akhbar” and “save us” – the latter being the phrase taught to them by the smugglers for when confronted by authorities. The police told them all to sit down and not use their phones. Nobody paid any attention. Eventually they had to walk in caravan behind the police car to town. On their way they went, but then another boat appeared from the distance and the police returned to the beach to – I still have no idea what it is they tried to do there. The police themselves most likely felt pretty useless too, because three or four more boats arrived that morning but I haven’t seen them any more.
By that time it was starting to get light. Joggers ran past, and kite surfers were readying their gear. An early swimmer from one of the nearby resorts emerged. Other tourists were watching the daily refugee spectacle from the comfort of the balconies of their rooms, enjoying a morning espresso.
I was running around with a microphone and my Nikon. The radio documentary I produced was aired the 30st of August, and can be listened to online here (link) or below.
Some of my photos were featured on the photography publication LensCulture, here.
In the meantime, the situation in Europe has taken a turn for the bizarre and the sinister. Countries like Hungary and Macedonia are panicking and have no clue how to handle the caravans of refugees passing through – the consensus seems to be to just treat them as horribly as possible: Hungary planned to deport refugees in trains to camps. Yes, it is sometimes hard to remember that it’s 2015 over here. In the seas between Turkey and Greece, people just drown.
European policy, as far as there is any, seems to be to push as much business as possible towards the smugglers, who are making millions circumventing borders that may one day be open and then closed on the other.
It annoys me personally. The brother from one of the main characters in my documentary is at the moment of writing stuck in Budapest where the authorities have decided to close, then open, then close the railway station again. If I had a car, I would just go over there to pick him up.
And maybe that’s what needs to happen. Organize buses and drive refugees from Greece to the West, step in where our hapless leaders are dropping the ball. Anyway, here’s the radio documentary I produced. Enjoy!