Today I share with you the latest piece of Solomon MAG.
Last month, journalist Corina Petridi met in Lesvos Ms. Afroditi Andrikou, head of the Registry Office in Mytilene.
“I can’t, I’ve had a difficult time processing all this.” Since 2012, the registrar of Lesvos has been mainly registering the bodies of unidentified refugees.
“Look, they’ve been entered in the system. Here, let’s print it. You can see that we didn’t have the information, but the system requires the age to be registered, and it says here using the medical examiner’s certificate, to indicate where the body was found. The details are made-up, the date and time of death is actually the date and time of death the body was found. Drowning in seawater, pending toxicological investigation. Violent death, accident.”
The room is bright and freshly painted, with high shelves and two bulky desks. A religious icon and a faded black and white photo hang on the otherwise bare walls. The commotion from the port and the din of traffic enter through the open window, periodically canceling out the sounds of the office: the keyboard, the mouse, leafing through folders.
Speaking on the phone after their meeting, Corina described Andrikou as “a very sweet woman”. The exact same words had been used a few months ago by fellow journalist Stavros Malichudis after a short conversation he had with her on the phone.
Listening to the audio excerpts from the interview, which can be found in the piece we published this week Name: Unknown, Cause of death: Drowning, was revealed, between long pauses and sighs, the warm and caring tone of a woman’s voice that the last eight years, with the increase of the number of those who try to cross the border between Greece and Turkey in inflatable boats, is dealing constantly with incidents that are not easy to leave behind when her work finishes at the end of the day.
In fact, Andrikou has borne the burden of documenting the aftermath of an ongoing crime in the Mediterranean that has led to the loss of thousands of unknown lives.
Today, a significant percentage of the recorded deaths, as Andrikou explains, “are not due to natural causes”.
Tensions and violence in the islands’ overcrowded camps often lead to deaths, as we reported earlier this year, and it makes it more urgent than ever to decongest the facilities and move refugees to safe and decent accommodation.
“We had a bottle, we cut it in half and we were trying to get the water out of the boat,” an Iranian refugee told us in a recent unpublished interview.
“People were crying and screaming. Two Afghans jumped into the sea and started swimming towards the beach to get help. We repeatedly called on the authorities. We were calling to 100 (note: Greek police) and we were told to get to the emergency number in Europe. We called there and they told us to take the Greek authorities. This has happened many times. When they finally came to pick us up, and while the boat was constantly filling with water, the police officers took selfies with us. We were dying and they were taking pictures. We insisted on looking for the other two. We would not move from there without them. Eventually one was found dead. He drowned.”
This testimony is added to a long list of testimonies of people who saw others losing their lives in the waters of the Mediterranean, in their attempt to cross them.
A. was found at the beginning of 2017 in a boat with a damaged engine and a capacity of up to 30 people in which 70 had initially boarded and after negotiations with the trafficker they ended up 50.
After almost 24 hours at sea, they were finally transported to Samos.
Until next time,