Searching for humanity

Over the last 6 years, I’ve seen the best and the worst of humanity and European values laid bare on our borders. I lost count of the dead that I’ve seen a long time ago. My memories are of drowned bodies floating in the water; kids with empty eyes looking to nowhere in the sky as I try in vain to resuscitate them; grown men scrambling for survival, clawing at the waves in desperation and hope of finding something to hold onto; desperate faces of parents throwing their children to me in the hope that at least their kids survive; and mothers looking for their kids who were lost in the water.

Nothing can justify these images in my mind. I’ve also seen people rise to help people that they’ve never met. I’ve seen the incredible determination of human beings to endure and overcome the most horrendous ordeals. And I’ve researched and learned how to help better and what to do about what has been unfolding in front of my eyes.

Brendan - SAR

And things aren’t much better on land. I’ve been to Paris and seen kids abandoned to sleep on canal sides where criminal gangs and paedophiles pray on the most vulnerable. Where people sleep in filth, amongst the rats, under bridges. This life is frightening to witness. And heart-breaking when you see children having to live in the harshest of conditions. Again – it’s a political choice. As it is a choice for us here in the UK to turn our backs on them. As it’s a choice for the Greek authorities to allow boys to sell their bodies in parks in Athens so that they can eat. Our policies are killing and harming people. It is heart-breaking.

It has left me with the view that if our politicians will allow human beings to suffer in this way; to drown in our seas; or to freeze on our streets, then it is up to civil society to do something about it. If we can’t trust our governments to provide for human beings in need then it is up to us. It’s up to us to find an organisation to help, to fund, to promote, or to volunteer with. And we can all do something. I have friends who give all of their time working on rescue ships all year long, and I have friends who occasionally collect sleeping bags to send to the frightened kids in France. It all counts.

I’d encourage anyone and everyone to support the sea rescue organisations and to start somehow to affect the political will which allows human beings to suffer for our borders. These lines on a map are not worthy of such suffering.

Brendan Woodhouse

~Sea-Watch activist~