On the beach, I conversed with a group of men from Afghanistan and Pakistan, nonchalantly swimming and drying their clothes in the sun. They told me “We are ten friends heading for Germany or France. After registering with the police, we are planned in for a transfer to Athens.” Their dangerous journey from Turkey across seven kilometers of water, after a failed first attempt, was facilitated by an unseen organizer who bid farewell at the Turkish coast.

“We’re temporarily housed in an abolished hotel,” they gestured, where laundry was visibly drying. Their journey, organized by a human trafficker in Afghanistan, was a desperate escape from the Taliban and IS they told me.

Nearby tourists cast judgmental glances, to me as well. The refugees, still over the top from their perilous crossing, seemed oblivious to the scrutiny.

Kos City
Mahmoud from Syria, who survivd the treacherous crossing after having failed to reach to shore twice, spoke about the terrible risk, the dying, drowning people. He acknowledged that the Coast Guards, both Turkish and Greek, did not prioritize saving lives. He criticized refugees for their naïveté and lack of purpose to come to Europe. Mahmoud empathized with the struggling Greeks on the island of Kos, he was amazed with their assistance to refugees. Being a mediamaker he would make a documentary out of it.

I headed back to the ferry. For me it was a simple boattrip from Turkey to Kos and back, but for others not.

Back at the Hotel in Turkey.

The barman, upon inquiry, spoke of “a refugee influx” due to war. “They arrive from Syria, through my country Turkey, finding a ‘safe’ passage here on the shore. Then they leave in the middle of the night. Some don’t make it.” “Why?” I ask. “Boats are sabotaged” By whom I ask. “The Greeks!” he said. Interrupted by a customer, the barman excused himself, I had the impression that he wanted to cut off this conversation.

1 am at night, I am on the beach near the Hotel.
I spotted erratic lights at sea – smugglers or Coast Guard? Earlier, my sons witnessed a rubber boat battling the currents. The shoreline was dark and windy, lights in the distance of Kos. A foreboding gateway to Europe.

Locals, queried via Google Translate, were uncooperative and fearful. This area is rife with contradictions: Police patrols, trafficker operations, local aid, and alleged illegal pushbacks by Greek authorities.

Back in the hotel at the bar, I learned of a tragic incident. The manager’s friend, charging €1000 per passenger, drowned when his boat carrying 100 refugees was hit, possibly by the Greek police or a rival trafficker. He fell off the boat. The boat was towed back to the shore.

This Turkish coast harbors harrowing, untold stories, waiting to be told once in safety. It is pure survival at the borders of Europe. Violation of human rights. I hope Mahmoud will document this from the inside, for us all to see.