Migration Media Award: Second Place, Online Category
Author: Rima Marrouch
Date of Publication: 1/2/2016
Title: ‘Boycott death boats’
Short summary: Before deciding to write about the Facebook Syrian group Karajat El-Meshanteteen, I was following it closely for few months. What fascinated me is the very practical use of social media to help other Syrians in the perilous journey across the sea. The admins, a group of Syrian young volunteers, were posting daily weather reports on the Turkish and Greek shores, and using several apps to compile it, like SeaConditions, they were also monitoring the dinghy boats (via WhatsApp of one of the travellers) and informing the Turkish, Italian or Greek coast guards when needed. They often advised others to boycott ‘death boats’ and not to travel. Syria in the past few years has become a failed state so it is fascinating for me to see how people are organising themselves on a grass-root level, helping each other, not waiting for help. The story of this Facebook group, was clearly for me an example of that. I wrote first the Arabic version for BBC Arabic, and then a version for the English-speaking audience. I wrote it in the time before the EU-Turkey Refugee deal, when still many people were coming by Sea. Also it was published a week after at least 39 migrants, including 11 children drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea. I got in touch with the admins, who were quite responsive but it took a bit of convincing so they openly speak to a journalist. Many Syrians became distrustful when dealing with the press. But probably the fact, that I am Syrian helped. Some admins, like Nour al-Halabi, were open for an honest conversation, sharing many painful details of his own failed attempts to cross to Europe but also details about the group’s work and what motivates them. It was a great pleasure to work on this story.