The last hours before driving into the Unknown

Eine Bucht zwischen Dikili und Çandarli, Türkei

Photo essay: A curve in the high-lying coastal road between Dikili and Çandarli . The car is driving slowly , our contact thinks we should take a closer look . Then we see a small path, it meanders down the rocks to the sea. At this bay thousands of people start the last segment of their flight to Europe.

Text und Bilder: Michael Bonvalot und Tanja Boukal

We follow the path down to the water. At the fireplaces, which can be seen everywhere, people have probably warmed up scantily. Still, it can get quite cold here at night.

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Everywhere is clothing, scattered in between we see single shoes, crushed water bottles and empty medication boxes.

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The abandoned objects let assume that also a lot of children wait here for the crossing. Used nappies, baby gloves, a baby bottle.

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Our contact says that parents tell children often that they were here on holiday and would now begin a boat trip. In fact, the crossing is dangerous. Water wings and rubber rings may perhaps protect against submerging, but in the cold water, there is still little chance of survival.

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We also see a lot of packaging for boat-repair kits, we see packaging of pumps and compressors. The inflatable dinghies are however often set into water completely overcrowded. Those who protest are threatened by the traffickers, as told to us by one of our contacts, a local refugee helper.

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The Greek island of Lesbos is only about 15 kilometers away and their lights reflect in the evening light. But the winds and currents make the trip literally lethal. Alone on the coast between Turkey and the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios probably thousands of people drowned – nobody knows the exact numbers.

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We finally arrive at the water. The first time when we visit the bay in the evening, the water is still clear. However the next morning when we come back again, clothes float everywhere in the water. It seems as if the current had washed ashore them.

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Were the clothes left behind before the departure or was it a desperate attempt to make the boat lighter? What happened to those people? Did they survive the crossing? We do not know it. We can only hope for them.

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