Not everyone’s experiences of the sea are positive. This fact hit me for the first time when I was volunteering in Lesvos, a Greek island close to Turkey, which became a ‘gateway’ to Europe for refugees fleeing Syria in 2015. I was part of a team providing emergency shoreline response, tending to boats arriving at all hours of the day and night to the rocky shores of the island. We provided food, water, urgent medical care and emergency blankets. We tried to convey a sense of welcome, knowing that people would soon be facing interminable months living in Moria refugee camp, a squalid and overcrowded camp built for 3,000, but hosting over 20,000 refugees at its peak in 2020.
For me, the sea has always been a site of joy, learning and excitement. But for many of those making dangerous journeys in order to claim asylum – be it to Lesvos, Italy, Melilla or the UK – the sea is a space ridden with trauma. Even if people do make it, this trauma is never addressed. Out of my desire to right this injustice and transform the sea into a safe space of healing for all, Reclaim The Sea was born.