1 year Alarm Phone brochure

Nieuws, gepost door: Watch the Med Alarm Phone op 25/01/2016 01:06:07

Wanneer: 25/01/2016 - 17:16

Alarm Phone’s 1 year brochure is out with the title: Moving On
The different contributions in this brochure reflect on many remarkable experiences made by Alarm Phone members in the project’s first year of existence.
We are a collective of over a 100 people in and from many different countries. By taking shifts we manage to be reachable as an independent and activist Alarm Phone 24/7 since October 11 2014.

Find the pdf brochure via: http://alarmphone.org/en/intros/1-year-documentation
or directly here: http://alarmphone.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2016/01/AP-1year-Doku-...

One article that was written by the Dutch Alarm Phone team is pasted below. But there is much more interesting to find in the brochure.

Contact: wtm.amsterdam(at)riseup.net

'We don’t see the emergency number in itself as the solution'
Alarm Phone in the Dutch Media

Over the past year, the Alarm Phone was referred to, addressed and discussed many times in the media in various countries in Europe and beyond. In the Netherlands, within merely 3 weeks in the second half of July and the beginning of August, our shift team reacted to 14 interview requests. This occurred in a period just before most of the attention shifted to the big migrant movements struggling to reach certain EU member states over land, through the Balkan routes. At the time, European politicians and the media were not yet speaking of a huge ‘refugee crisis’. Our media work included interviews on the radio, on TV and in newspapers, both local as well as national. We had some extensive articles in major and widely circulated newspapers and TV interviews in popular news programs.

It positively surprised us how willingly the media reported on our ideas concerning the freedom of movement and the abolition of borders that stop people from going where they need or want to be. It was as if there was finally space to talk about this as actual possibilities to seriously consider, and journalists were interested to hear more about it. Besides us, there were also a few social scientists that promoted this idea in the media in the same period, which complemented our story in a nice way, and vice-versa.
Another key topic was on how border controls force people to find other routes, which will always be more lengthy, costly and dangerous than the shorter routes that are now blocked. We pointed out that by blocking the safer routes, European policies and practices are directly responsible for human suffering and death.

We came across many journalists who were mainly interested in sensationalist stories, rather than in serious political points of view. How an Alarm Phone shift works but also how we feel during and after shifts was often at the centre of the interviews rather than our political messages and ideas.
Live broadcasting gave us the opportunity to sharply bring across our demands and condemnation of the current situation. The print media, however, always tended to disappoint us as the discourses there were mostly formulated around the ‘heroes working from the kitchen table’ narrative, and offered just a few sentences at the end of the piece that covered our critical political angle. We preferred media coverage that discussed the foundation of this huge violation of human rights. But on the plus side, even if the media focussed merely on describing the work of the Alarm Phone, it did create a sense of action perspective, as it shows people that it’s actually not that difficult to intervene and start doing something against the ugly reality we face now.

A topic that was nearly always discussed in the interviews was our ambiguous relation to coastguards. We need them to answer our calls, take our information, not to hang up on us and answer our questions regarding cases. Obviously they feel watched by us and would prefer not to be called and monitored. The coastguards operate in a political and conflicting context; on the one hand they should rescue lives in distress but on the other hand they control the borders of the EU, seeking to block the entry of certain migrants as much as possible. For the moment we know that the more the practises of border authorities are watched, the greater the chances that necessary rescues are carried out and conform to international law and basic humane standards.

Another issue that was often raised revolved around the idea that our project might stimulate unwanted migration, often voiced in a slightly accusatory tone, suggesting that we might even be supporting the work of human smugglers. These questions actually made the interviews more interesting as we could then explain that migration is nothing new and there is nothing wrong with it. What is wrong is the fact that for some people in this world, migration, whether temporary like holidays or more long term, is as usual as waking up in the morning, while for others it is completely impossible or involve great risks. Even with the Alarm Phone and all the other solidarity initiatives that exist, it is still a nightmare to take a boat to Europe, full of dangers and including all the extreme difficulties that follow after arriving on European soil. Addressing this topic gave us the opportunity to explain that the fact that European politicians focus on smugglers as the criminals is a strategy of deception that we should not fall for. It is the European policies that create this situation in the first place and smugglers wouldn’t exist if there were open passages. Politicians falsely flex their muscles by blaming the smugglers and distract the public by attacking would-be smuggler boats.

The question that would always follow in reaction to our answer was: ‘What if the borders are open, and everybody comes to Europe, how are we supposed to handle that?’ Here we would provide various arguments and explanations: Not everyone will come to Europe; history, research and simple common sense can show us that. Europe has enough space and plenty of wealth to share. And on top of that it would be very cynical to let people die because we are afraid about what would happen if we would not let them die. We will not deny that changing existing systems and facing one's privileges is a challenging process. But we see it as the only option if we want to counter global inequality and stop the current misery that people on the move face.

When asked if the Alarm Phone appears to be effective, it was obvious to say that many people involve us in their difficult journeys. The Alarm Phone has proven to be functional in many cases. However we clearly did not present the emergency number in itself to be the solution. And, besides that, not everyone who needs support will be able to reach us and it will remain impossible to intervene in every situation of distress. We do this work to be out there and show and denounce what is going on.

With our media work we hope to help to change the current discourse in a positive and active direction towards one that focuses on international solidarity and criticizes current migration policies. In this way we hope to encourage more people to start to think about and advocate the freedom of migration.




11.45 PM,

January 4, 2016 another boat sinks on its way to the Greek island
Lesvos. After 12 hours in a freezing cold January sea, Ahmad staggers
to land on the shore of Altinova, Turkey. As soon as his wounded feet
reach dry land, he collapses. A local medical staff wraps him in a blanket.

Video Player


This is the first help that he or any of the 52 people on the boat that
would take them to Mytilini on Lesvos receive. Despite panicked screams
for help and desperate phone calls to all authorities and contacts they
know of.

They even met a boat out there in their peril, drifting towards death.

But no one came. Not on Greek water and not on Turkish water. The boat
they met turned and left them.

Next to Ahmad on the shore, which in the summertime is crowded with
affluent tourists, the other passengers washed ashore as the sun rises
in they sky. Children, babies, mothers and fathers, ever petrified with
fear. A little girl, who Ahmad held until she could not fight any
longer, is lying there in her pink jacket.

The only survivors from the boat on January 4 are 12 men who travelled
alone or with a friend or relative.

When Ahmad is taken in the ambulance he believes he is saved, in safety.

But he is wrong. This frightful story is far from over for him or the
other survivors. It is still ongoing, somewhere in Turkey.


It is the first Monday of January and Ahmad is finally taking the way
across the sea to Greece, to the EU. He is an open critic of the regime
and has worked with art in Syria and Jordan. He has no other choice than
to flee to Europe. He does not know where yet. He has bought a ticket
for a day trip on a boat from a smuggler that seems to be good on
Basmane Square in Izmir. This is where all the “traveling agencies” are.
He is soon shown to a taxi and a convoy of cars drives them for hours.
They are let off in a grove of olive trees somewhere. And immediately
everything changes.

– We were met by a gang of smugglers, it was the mafia. They screamed,
cursed and threatened us all, says Ahmad.

He says that the smugglers are armed with firearms and iron tools and
knives as large as swords.

– They threatened and beat us all, not even the children got away. We
didn’t want to, but they forced us into a boat even though it was dark,
cold and the sea was rough.

The 52 people plus a driver got into the boat and drove out in the dark
unknown sea. Everyone was afraid and after just ten minutes everyone
onboard demanded the driver to turn around. He did as he was told.

– But when we came back to the place we left from the boss of the
smugglers was still there. He became furious and started to hit the
driver with his knife. He put a weapon against his head. Everyone in the
boat screamed at him to stop, but then he threatened to do the same to
anyone who screamed. He sent us back out again.

“If you come back I will kill you!”. The smuggler boss remained on the
beach and in the boat Ahmad and the others began to understand their
fate. They had no other option than to go straight out into the rough
sea and the increasing rain. It was only a few degrees above freezing.
In the little rubber boat which is really only meant for a few people,
the children sit at the bottom. The passengers begin to become
acquainted, introduce themselves and find out what skills they have.

– To dispel fear, says Ahmad.

And “just in case”. But they are all intent on reaching the other side,
to the blinking red lights at the airport of Lesvos. They see no other
choice. But when the rain and the frightening waves cause more and more
panic onboard they decide to call the coast guard and hope to be saved
that way. A ticket is about 1 000 Euro per person.

Even if it means becoming caught in Turkey. They do not dare return to
the beach again.

The Turkish coast guard answers that they can be calm. They will come.


But when 30 minutes have passed since they called the coast guard no one
has come to their rescue. The engine begins to malfunction. It breaks
down and starts working again. Back and forth.

The boat crosses the border and they are on Greek water. They call the
coast guard for help. They send an SOS in their Whatsapp group that they
use to communicate during the journey. They write to other forums on
Facebook and call family and friends for help.

Suddenly they see a ship closer to Greece and head towards it. The
engine shuts down but they drift in the right direction. They even see
the Greek shore, their goal. They are scared, but still see the light
and hope in the blinking lamps along the coastline of Lesvos.

– We came all the way to the ship. Finally we are saved, we thought. We
banged on the hull of the boat and together lifted the children in the
air so that they would see them. Just take the children! we called. But
no one came.

They call for help and see the captain come out. He shines a torch on
them, smokes a cigarette. When he is done he throws the butt on Ahmad
and the others in the boat and goes into the cabin and starts the ship’s

They continue to call for help with the coast guard but they have
stopped responding.

It is 11.45 PM. They know this for certain because one of the survivors’
watches has stopped at that time. 11.45 PM is also the time of the last
emergency call from the boat. It is Ayman, a young Syrian who calls his
brother and asks him to take care of his children now that he is dying
at sea.

– The sea started to boil beneath us. The swell of the ship’s engine
filled the boat with water. It was indescribable, I will never forget
it. Those who sat at the boats bottom drowned first, and that was the

Eventually the boat breaks in two and everyone falls off. Or down. Ahmad
has a six-year-old girl on his arm. Her mother despairs, the girl’s two
brothers have already drowned at sea, they are gone. “Please, help my
daughter!” are the mother’s last panic-stricken words before she too

– “Mister, hold me up!” the girl called and held onto my neck. I lifted
her as high as I could. But the waves were high. She kept asking when
the coast guard would come and save us. I told her “We live together or
we die together, I will not leave you”, says Ahmad.

He and the girl are alone on the drift of the waves. The wind blows
towards Turkey. For a while Ahmad finds some drifting wood to hold on
to. But a wave takes it. The waves hit the girl, her face.

– I saw that she was starting to drown, but I couldn’t do anything even
though I had promised her. Does that make me her killer? She died in my
arms … I put her with the life jacket on her back, and said “Rest in
peace. It will be good now, there is nothing left in life for you. Your
brothers died, your mother died. Rest in peace”.


Ahmad is almost paralyzed from shock, cold and exhaustion. But he is
swimming for his life. Night is turning into day. Suddenly he is closing
in on twelve people from the boat. They are alive and one of them reach
out with a hand. They have held on to the wreck of the boat. Dead people
hang from it. Together they drift towards the Turkish coast. They reach
a cliff. It is slippery and sharp and the waves make the attempts to get
up violent. One woman hits her head and dies.

– It was so cold. We tried to become warm with stones and by holding
each other. People started to come out by the beach and we called and
waved, but no one saw us. That was when I decided to swim the last distance.

After nearly twelve hours of struggle for his and his travel companions’
lives, Ahmad swims the last 2 kilometers to land. He staggers up on the
shore and is transported by ambulance to the hospital. He thinks he is safe.

But he is not. And neither are the others from the boat.

The other eleven men from the boat are picked up from the cliff by a
smaller coast guard boat. They are wet, cold and in shock. But instead
of being taken to land, to a hospital, they have to go with the boat and
pick up dead bodies from the sea. For over an hour they go and pick up
bodies instead of receiving medical attention.

Ahmad is at the hospital for a couple of hours. He rambles and feels
guilt because he could not rescue the six-year-old girl. He and the
eleven surviving men are taken to Altinova Jandarma, a military police
station. They are held captive and are interrogated. None of them know
why they are not released.

– I asked them every day, when will we get out? Why are you doing this?
But there was no answer. During the first three days some organisation
came with clothes and crackers, but after that no one was let in to see
us. When someone was there the police pretended that everything was
alright, but when they left they changed completely, says Ahmad.

Turkish and some international press have reported that one or two boats
were wrecked on the night between January 4 and 5. But when the news is
out any outside attention disappears. None of the survivors on the
military police station get help to reach their relatives. How they are
treated is closest described as torture.

– We were forced to look at the dead people from the boat. Not pictures,
but the actual bodies. They took us in one by one and wanted us to
identify them. I was beside myself and couldn’t understand why or how
they could do this to us.

Ahmad panics and starts to shake inside the Jandarma. But the treatment

–We were forced to work for food. We shoveled coal from the backyard. If
we didn’t do what they said they gave us no food and hit us with sticks.

Some of the survivors decide to go on a food strike, but none of the
police take them seriously. “Suit yourselves”.

After 15 days in captivity, without knowing why they were arrested or
how long they were to stay, the twelve survivors from a boat of 52 were
released. At the time 29 bodies have been found. The youngest wore a
water-filled diaper. The picture of the girl that Ahmed tried to save,
in her pink jacket and blue jeans, has circulated online. On the picture
her black hair on the beach resembles a macabre gloria. A six-year-old
girl on her way to the EU with her mother and two brothers to be able to
live. The only way there left them at the mercy of an illegal and
dangerous business run by a smuggler mafia associated with the Turkish

They never reached the EU tonight. The EU, which has given Turkey three
billion to deal with the situation such as the one with the utterly
insecure flight route over the Aegean Sea. The route that families and
young men take every night, every day of the year. 30–40 boats still
leave desolate beaches in Turkey every day. Many arrive and a new long
journey towards asylum and residence permit is begun. But far too many
never reach the shores and the shiny emergency blankets, soap bubbles
and the warming tea of the voluntary workers. During 2016 there are
already 158 deaths on the Mediterranean. 158 when this is written. 158
that we know of. Because who keeps track of the boats that are forced to
go illegally protected by darkness and difficult weather? Who writes a
passenger list on an illegal journey controlled by the mafia in the
worst kept secret in the country? No, no one.


Why didn’t the Turkish coast guard show up as they promised?

Their office is in the harbor of Dikili. It was around this little
Turkish coastal town that the dead and the survivors came on the morning
of January 5. The coastguards cannot say what happened. But they were
out that night, helping another boat. They show us their film footage.

Either they were tired of SOS calls from boats with engine trouble. Or
there was an economic agreement with the team of smugglers on land not
to pick them up. Or Ahmad’s boat was confused with the other one, the
boat that had similar difficulties that same night. The coast guard was
there and saved people. But no one knows how many boats leave the
Turkish coast. “And God knows how many bodies are out there” says one of
the officials at the Dikili coastguard after Ahmed’s boat has sunk. No
one knows.

Ahmad and the eleven other men were released, and put on a bus to Izmir.
Together with two of the other men he has travelled to another location
and wants to find a new way to reach safety in the EU. It is from here
that he tells his part of the story. At this time, he and his new
friends from the boat are just as scared of the smugglers as they are of
the military police, the jandarma.

– Why does the world let us who try to reach safety die? Why does no one
see what is happening and open the way for us who need to live in
Europe. This way just becomes an illegal business where people forge
papers and manage to get in, while children are left to drown.

Like Ahmad and the other 52 people on the boat at 11.45 PM, January 4,
2016. On a cold, rainy and stormy sea, with no attempts to help from the
responsible authorities. Left to their own devices. All while the EU
promises billions to Turkey.

This story is translated from swedish webbpublication KIT and is written
by Annah Björk and researched by Mattias Beijmo. Thanks for the
translation LH Bergstrom.


Persbericht WtM Alarmphone, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/31992 .


De EU doodt vluchtelingen: geen Frontex maar Veerboten!, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/27762
Ferries not Frontex! 10 points to really end the deaths of migrants at sea, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/27823
Call for Donations for the Watch The Med Alarm Phone, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/28046
Alarm Phone report 7- 13 Sept, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/29694
WtM Alarm Phone report 30 Aug - 6 Sept, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/29695
WTM Alarmphone 1 year anniversary statement, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/30145
How does the Alarmphone work?, https://www.indymedia.nl/node/32424 .

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