The day most of the Sea Watch crew left was described as an absurd and sad experience by Chris Grodotzki, the Field Media Coordinator aboard the vessel Sea Watch 3.
Grodotzki, also the person behind the photos coming out of Sea Watch during the odyssey spoke to Newsbook.com.mt about his experience of 14 days on board the vessel and the relationship developed with the people that had just been rescued.
The rescue took place on Saturday 22nd December, when the vessel belonging to the German civil search and rescue NGO assisted a rubber dinghy which had left the port of Zuwara and found itself in distress.
Grodotzki recalled how he was on the first approach boat and recalled the concern on people’s faces once the crew approached them. He described the moment as intense, saying that the people sighed in relief when it was clarified that Sea Watch was not taking them back to Libya and that they were from Europe, news of which the people cheered.
The Field Media Coordinator said that initially, no one would have thought that the group would share the vessel and living space for 14 days and more, describing the situation as a mixture of emotion ranging from frustrating to impressive. The political standoff, the refusal of granting Sea Watch 3 a safe port was frustrating, he said. The diverse group consists of different nationalities from countries ranging from Nigeria, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, among others.
‘It didn’t feel right at all’
Initially, according to Grodotzki, the vibe was “beautiful” between the crew and rescuees; however, the situation deteriorated. On the 14th day, Grodotzki had to leave the vessel along with other crew members. Many of the crew members, being volunteers and having normal day jobs or reading various subjects at University, had to return to their normal life. However leaving the vessel was tough, as one-third of those on board could freely leave, while others had no choice but to stay behind. Grodotzki recalled how the absurdity of the whole European border regime could be felt and affirmed that it did not feel good and right at all.
People refusing to eat
Some of the asylum seekers have started refusing to eat, while others could not eat due to the traumatic experience they have suffered. Among those who were refusing to eat, was the person who was seen in footage after he jumped into the water, while the delegation made of German MPs and MEPs was visiting the vessel.
Newsbook.com.mt asked crew member Kim Heaton-Heather about his condition, with Heaton-Heather replying that the crew was concerned the most with him. Describing his current situation as stable, Heaton-Heather informed that the man had not eaten for some two and a half days. He further described how he had been pushed into a situation which was critical as he could not psychologically handle the situation any longer. Heaton-Heather spoke of how some of the women guests tried to talk the man into starting to eat again. Without going into much detail, Heaton-Heather said that from the conversations they had with him, it became evident that the man endured extremely harrowing experiences in Libya which were prolonged over a number of years.
Onboard Sea Watch 3 there are three children, one of which is one-year-old, and two six-year-olds, Heaton-Heather said that they are generally unaware of the situation; they could feel that something was wrong.