For migrants, is water life or grave?

posted by Sukru Esin
June 02, 2015

Fethiye is one of the most well known tourist spots in Turkey, as popular among the Turkish as Europeans. Thousands travel every year to its sun-kissed beaches to party or to just enjoy nature. In Turkish, we call the Mediterranean waters around Fethiye “Ölü Deniz” or ‘Dead Sea,’ as they are always very calm, even during storms. 

There are two main scenarios in Fethiye. The first one is, you wear your swimsuit and get into the calm waters to enjoy with your family or friends. This is one of the best diving spots in Turkey. Besides, there are numerous clubs, bar and restaurants that stay open all night and till early morning. All in all, a great holiday destination. So you see a large number of foreigners enjoying as tourists. 

The other scenario involves immigrants, many of whom don’t even know how to swim. The immigrants are mostly from among the more than 2 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey and have been trying to survive here since 2011. All they have is a compass in their hands, and the aim to go “west” and nowhere else!


Even as the world’s gaze hovers on immigrants trying and dying around the Italian coast, nobody knows how many people have drowned in the Aegean Sea of late (and along the Turkish west coast in general). A grave reminder is the dead bodies and clothes that wash up on the shores every now and then.   On May 18 this year (2015), local people found a number of clothes on the shoreline at Karakum (Blacksand Beach). These were not clothes left on the beach by those who had gone into the sea for a jolly swim. These were shoes and clothes of those who tried to take on the sea in sheer desperation, who tried to make it to Greek islands in rickety  overpriced boats sold by unscrupulous fishermen. Many of them were children’s clothes; it looked as if entire families had gone into deep waters together. It is heartbreaking to see this and remember how our Mums and Dads spare no effort to keep us away from any trouble.        

For many of us, water represents life, fertility, transparency, purity…. but for thousands fleeing their own homes in Syria and other conflict-torn nations, the Aegean Sea has been a watery grave. It is not clear when this will come to an end, but it is clear that increasing off-shore patrols does not deter people from risking their lives and perishing in the process.   

From Turkey, many migrants are trying to reach Greece. See the video below from UNHCR about refugees arriving at Kos:

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June 2, 2015  
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