An estimated 2.7 million refugees have fled the war-torn regions of Syria and Afghanistan – as well as other countries in the Middle East subjected to major conflict. While mainstream media has shared countless stories of the many who make it safely to kinder shores, there are those who have gone unnoticed. It is unknown exactly how many men, women, and children have lost their lives in search of a better one. The efforts of smugglers to fill boats beyond their capacity, providing life jackets that fail to float is not a testament to their desire to save lives. Instead, it reveals the dark side of the human race – the side that will unabashedly put others in harms way to net a profit. This does not negate the fact that the Aegean Sea can be treacherous and the chilly waters potentially fatal. However, a life jacket that actually floats would certainly improve the odds of survival and may possibly mean the difference between life and death for many.
On the island of Lesbos, near the Greek village of Kato Tritos, there is an olive grove serving as a graveyard. This remote location is the final resting place for countless children lost at sea. Amrit Singh of Now Humanity spent a little more than a week on Lesbos. During his time there, he served as a volunteer, helping various organizations serve the many refugees temporarily staying at the camps as well as those who newly arrived. In addition to taxiing supplies from warehouses to campsites and helping migrants off the rickety boats and rafts they arrived on, Amrit scoped daily to share the truth and dire urgency of the situation on the island with the rest of the world. One of the locations he shared via Periscope, was the cemetery of known and unknown refugee children.
Courtesy of Amrit Singh (@MrASingh on Twitter)
White headstones span the olive grove, some displaying complete information for those identified; while others display nothing more than gender, approximate age, a number, and a date – the earliest being 11/2015 and the most recent being Feb 2016. Hundreds of children have been laid to rest and still, there are fresh graves being made for the many more to come. For the surviving parents of these children, they must find some way to reconcile with this tragedy for Greece is not their final destination. Saying goodbye is never easy. Having to move on and leave your child(ren) behind is unfathomable for many. It goes against the laws of nature as most parents believe they will precede their children in death.
As a mother, I cannot begin to imagine the horror and devastation of such great loss. As parents, we strive to shield our children from all harm. This journey to a better life exemplifies the efforts of the parents to provide their children with peace and stability. Sadly, many did not survive the journey. What’s more discouraging is that there may be many more who suffer the same tragic fate.