Over the past two years, rickety boats and inflatable rafts filled to the brim with migrants and asylum-seekers braving the Mediterranean Sea have become synonymous with the refugee crisis that now threatens to tear the European Union apart.
Since 2014, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a charity that launches search and rescue missions off European coastlines, has saved more than 12,000 lives in the Mediterranean’s choppy waters.
But in that time, the Aegean Sea — the smaller passage that separates Greece from Turkey — has become an increasingly popular route and, by extension, an increasingly deadly one. According to MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone, that short distance has encouraged smugglers to “take increased risks at the expense of the refugees, often giving them worthless life jackets and inflatable boats that simply cannot reach shore.”
“What we are witnessing in the Aegean Sea is even more horrendous than what we experienced in the Mediterranean,” he said.
In the first three weeks of January, some 37,000 migrants risked the trip across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas — and 113 migrants died. That’s more than 10 times the number who made the trek in January last year.
MOAS, which began operating in the Aegean Sea for the first time last month, is working off the coast of the Greek island of Agathonisi and has named their equipment after Alan and Galip Kurdi, the two Kurdish brothers who drowned at sea last September. A tragic photo captured of 3-year-old Alan, face-first in sand after his body washed up on shore, became an emblem for the plight of refugees.
Explore these maps provided by MOAS and Migrant Report that document the extent of their rescue missions in the Aegean and Mediterranean this year.