A boat carrying 500 refugees sunk at sea. The story of two survivors | Melissa Fleming

A boat carrying 500 refugees sunk at sea. The story of two survivors | Melissa Fleming


Every day, I listen to harrowing stories
of people fleeing for their lives, across dangerous borders
and unfriendly seas. But there’s one story
that keeps me awake at night, and it’s about Doaa. A Syrian refugee, 19 years old, she was living a grinding existence
in Egypt working day wages. Her dad was constantly thinking
of his thriving business back in Syria that had been blown to pieces by a bomb. And the war that drove them there
was still raging in its fourth year. And the community
that once welcomed them there had become weary of them. And one day, men on motorcycles
tried to kidnap her. Once an aspiring student
thinking only of her future, now she was scared all the time. But she was also full of hope, because she was in love
with a fellow Syrian refugee named Bassem. Bassem was also struggling in Egypt,
and he said to Doaa, “Let’s go to Europe; seek asylum, safety. I will work, you can study —
the promise of a new life.” And he asked her father
for her hand in marriage. But they knew to get to Europe
they had to risk their lives, traveling across the Mediterranean Sea, putting their hands in smugglers’,
notorious for their cruelty. And Doaa was terrified of the water. She always had been.
She never learned to swim. It was August that year,
and already 2,000 people had died trying to cross the Mediterranean, but Doaa knew of a friend who had made it
all the way to Northern Europe, and she thought, “Maybe we can, too.” So she asked her parents if they could go, and after a painful discussion,
they consented, and Bassem paid his entire life savings —
2,500 dollars each — to the smugglers. It was a Saturday morning
when the call came, and they were taken by bus to a beach,
hundreds of people on the beach. They were taken then by small boats
onto an old fishing boat, 500 of them crammed onto that boat, 300 below, [200] above. There were Syrians, Palestinians,
Africans, Muslims and Christians, 100 children, including Sandra —
little Sandra, six years old — and Masa, 18 months. There were families on that boat,
crammed together shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet. Doaa was sitting with her legs
crammed up to her chest, Bassem holding her hand. Day two on the water,
they were sick with worry and sick to their stomachs
from the rough sea. Day three, Doaa had a premonition. And she said to Bassem,
“I fear we’re not going to make it. I fear the boat is going to sink.” And Bassem said to her,
“Please be patient. We will make it to Sweden,
we will get married and we will have a future.” Day four, the passengers
were getting agitated. They asked the captain,
“When will we get there?” He told them to shut up,
and he insulted them. He said, “In 16 hours we will reach
the shores of Italy.” They were weak and weary. Soon they saw a boat approach —
a smaller boat, 10 men on board, who started shouting at them,
hurling insults, throwing sticks, asking them
to all disembark and get on this smaller,
more unseaworthy boat. The parents were terrified
for their children, and they collectively
refused to disembark. So the boat sped away in anger, and a half an hour later, came back and started deliberately ramming a hole
in the side of Doaa’s boat, just below where she
and Bassem were sitting. And she heard how they yelled, “Let the fish eat your flesh!” And they started laughing
as the boat capsized and sank. The 300 people below deck were doomed. Doaa was holding on to the side
of the boat as it sank, and watched in horror as a small child
was cut to pieces by the propeller. Bassem said to her, “Please let go, or you’ll be swept in and the propeller
will kill you, too.” And remember — she can’t swim. But she let go and she started moving
her arms and her legs, thinking, “This is swimming.” And miraculously,
Bassem found a life ring. It was one of those child’s rings that they use to play
in swimming pools and on calm seas. And Doaa climbed onto the ring, her arms and her legs
dangling by the side. Bassem was a good swimmer, so he held her hand and tread water. Around them there were corpses. Around 100 people survived initially, and they started coming together
in groups, praying for rescue. But when a day went by and no one came, some people gave up hope, and Doaa and Bassem watched as men in the distance took their
life vests off and sank into the water. One man approached them
with a small baby perched on his shoulder, nine months old — Malek. He was holding onto a gas canister
to stay afloat, and he said to them, “I fear I am not going to survive. I’m too weak. I don’t have
the courage anymore.” And he handed little Malek
over to Bassem and to Doaa, and they perched her onto the life ring. So now they were three,
Doaa, Bassem and little Malek. And let me take a pause
in this story right here and ask the question: why do refugees like Doaa
take these kinds of risks? Millions of refugees are living
in exile, in limbo. They’re living in countries [fleeing]
from a war that has been raging for four years. Even if they wanted to return, they can’t. Their homes, their businesses, their towns and their cities
have been completely destroyed. This is a UNESCO World Heritage City, Homs, in Syria. So people continue to flee
into neighboring countries, and we build refugee camps
for them in the desert. Hundreds of thousands of people
live in camps like these, and thousands and thousands more,
millions, live in towns and cities. And the communities, the neighboring countries
that once welcomed them with open arms and hearts are overwhelmed. There are simply not enough schools,
water systems, sanitation. Even rich European countries
could never handle such an influx without massive investment. The Syria war has driven almost
four million people over the borders, but over seven million people
are on the run inside the country. That means that over half
the Syrian population has been forced to flee. Back to those neighboring
countries hosting so many. They feel that the richer world
has done too little to support them. And days have turned into months,
months into years. A refugee’s stay is supposed
to be temporary. Back to Doaa and Bassem in the water. It was their second day,
and Bassem was getting very weak. And now it was Doaa’s turn
to say to Bassem, “My love, please hold on to hope,
to our future. We will make it.” And he said to her, “I’m sorry, my love,
that I put you in this situation. I have never loved anyone
as much as I love you.” And he released himself into the water, and Doaa watched as the love of her life
drowned before her eyes. Later that day, a mother came up to Doaa with her
small 18-month-old daughter, Masa. This was the little girl I showed you
in the picture earlier, with the life vests. Her older sister Sandra had just drowned, and her mother knew she had to do
everything in her power to save her daughter. And she said to Doaa,
“Please take this child. Let her be part of you.
I will not survive.” And then she went away and drowned. So Doaa, the 19-year-old refugee
who was terrified of the water, who couldn’t swim, found herself in charge
of two little baby kids. And they were thirsty and they were hungry
and they were agitated, and she tried her best to amuse them, to sing to them, to say words
to them from the Quran. Around them, the bodies were bloating
and turning black. The sun was blazing during the day. At night, there was a cold moon and fog. It was very frightening. On the fourth day in the water,
this is how Doaa probably looked on the ring with her two children. A woman came on the fourth day
and approached her and asked her to take another child — a little boy, just four years old. When Doaa took the little boy
and the mother drowned, she said to the sobbing child, “She just went away
to find you water and food.” But his heart soon stopped, and Doaa had to release
the little boy into the water. Later that day, she looked up into the sky with hope, because she saw two planes
crossing in the sky. And she waved her arms,
hoping they would see her, but the planes were soon gone. But that afternoon,
as the sun was going down, she saw a boat, a merchant vessel. And she said, “Please, God,
let them rescue me.” She waved her arms and she felt
like she shouted for about two hours. And it had become dark,
but finally the searchlights found her and they extended a rope, astonished to see a woman
clutching onto two babies. They pulled them onto the boat,
they got oxygen and blankets, and a Greek helicopter came
to pick them up and take them to the island of Crete. But Doaa looked down and asked,
“What of Malek?” And they told her the little baby
did not survive — she drew her last breath
in the boat’s clinic. But Doaa was sure that as they had
been pulled up onto the rescue boat, that little baby girl had been smiling. Only 11 people survived
that wreck, of the 500. There was never an international
investigation into what happened. There were some media reports
about mass murder at sea, a terrible tragedy, but that was only for one day. And then the news cycle moved on. Meanwhile, in a pediatric
hospital on Crete, little Masa was on the edge of death. She was really dehydrated.
Her kidneys were failing. Her glucose levels were dangerously low. The doctors did everything
in their medical power to save them, and the Greek nurses never left her side, holding her, hugging her,
singing her words. My colleagues also visited
and said pretty words to her in Arabic. Amazingly, little Masa survived. And soon the Greek press started reporting
about the miracle baby, who had survived four days in the water
without food or anything to drink, and offers to adopt her came
from all over the country. And meanwhile, Doaa
was in another hospital on Crete, thin, dehydrated. An Egyptian family took her into their
home as soon as she was released. And soon word went around
about Doaa’s survival, and a phone number
was published on Facebook. Messages started coming in. “Doaa, do you know
what happened to my brother? My sister? My parents? My friends?
Do you know if they survived?” One of those messages said, “I believe you saved
my little niece, Masa.” And it had this photo. This was from Masa’s uncle, a Syrian refugee who had made it
to Sweden with his family and also Masa’s older sister. Soon, we hope, Masa will be reunited
with him in Sweden, and until then, she’s being cared for
in a beautiful orphanage in Athens. And Doaa? Well, word went around
about her survival, too. And the media wrote
about this slight woman, and couldn’t imagine how
she could survive all this time under such conditions in that sea, and still save another life. The Academy of Athens, one of Greece’s
most prestigious institutions, gave her an award of bravery, and she deserves all that praise, and she deserves a second chance. But she wants to still go to Sweden. She wants to reunite
with her family there. She wants to bring her mother
and her father and her younger siblings away from Egypt there as well, and I believe she will succeed. She wants to become a lawyer
or a politician or something that can help
fight injustice. She is an extraordinary survivor. But I have to ask: what if she didn’t have to take that risk? Why did she have to go through all that? Why wasn’t there a legal way
for her to study in Europe? Why couldn’t Masa have taken
an airplane to Sweden? Why couldn’t Bassem have found work? Why is there no massive resettlement
program for Syrian refugees, the victims of the worst war of our times? The world did this for the Vietnamese
in the 1970s. Why not now? Why is there so little investment
in the neighboring countries hosting so many refugees? And why, the root question, is so little being done to stop
the wars, the persecution and the poverty that is driving
so many people to the shores of Europe? Until these issues are resolved, people will continue to take to the seas and to seek safety and asylum. And what happens next? Well, that is largely Europe’s choice. And I understand the public fears. People are worried about their security,
their economies, the changes of culture. But is that more important
than saving human lives? Because there is something
fundamental here that I think overrides the rest, and it is about our common humanity. No person fleeing war or persecution should have to die
crossing a sea to reach safety. (Applause) One thing is for sure, that no refugee would be
on those dangerous boats if they could thrive where they are. And no migrant would take
that dangerous journey if they had enough food
for themselves and their children. And no one would put their life savings in the hands of those notorious smugglers if there was a legal way to migrate. So on behalf of little Masa and on behalf of Doaa and of Bassem and of those 500 people
who drowned with them, can we make sure that they
did not die in vain? Could we be inspired by what happened, and take a stand for a world
in which every life matters? Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “A boat carrying 500 refugees sunk at sea. The story of two survivors | Melissa Fleming

  1. Why?
    Because millions of dollars and euros intended for these victims are being stolen along the route of good intentions.
    Money given to charity is being abused and taken. It's not that people don't care, they do and they give.
    But that money is being stolen by the same people that rammed the boat in the first place.

    Fight the scumbag human traffickers by giving a legal path to asylum.

    Those who don't approve of a legal path to exit and safety are just ramming the boats of the migrants.

  2. The human race is so stupid. Fucking Americans should shut up, you don't live in Europe. In fact, you funded Isis and got Paris bombed. I guess now I know why so many other Europeans hate America.

  3. I can never take women like these serious. Short hair, pant-suit, bleeding heart. I hope she gets gang raped by a bunch of well-meaning Syrian refugees.

  4. There is so much venom in the comments and it is surprising because these are human beings. Where is your compassion, your empathy?

  5. Although there r so many drawbacks which might come from helping refugees, I still feel that people become too cold nowadays

  6. this is unbelievable, something that people like us only see in movies and it's more unbelievable that people have to go through this in 2015..during the world war two people flew over the sea to America like this but this is 70 years ago. almost 500 people lost their lives on this boat but it's so unfair and so cruel what happend in Paris two weeks ago, omg! open your eyes people and start appreciating what you have and what others fight for to have and die doing that.

  7. Rationality > Emotions Politics needs to be made with logic and reason, not empathy. It will lead to a better outcome, even for the refugees in the long run.

  8. If they were so eager to get to Europe, why did they categorically refuse to get on that smaller boat? The smugglers are taking big risks too. And surely they knew about this before getting on this dangerous journey.

  9. There are very few occasions throughout history in which refugees have actually posed a threat to locals.

    This past Thursday, Americans celebrated one of those occasions by gathering around a dinner table with our families (whom we mostly despise) and stuffing ourselves full of turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

  10. WTF is wong with all the people writing comments on this video?
    Imagine europe was in war (wich will happen soon) and the neighboring countries just closed their doors and left you to die.

  11. This is not the first time this video has been played on this channel – it was aired previously about 2-3 weeks ago.  Are they trying to brainwash us?

  12. That was very melodramatic. Few holes in your story. What was this other boat that you refer to?No information supplied about who was on that other boat, and what happened to the captain of the refugee vessel. The surviving refugees conscious state at the time of the events would be quite bad due to dehydration and famine. Therefor you as the interpreter would be filling in the blanks and projecting your own thoughts and feelings. In the end you have to wonder how much of this story is true?

  13. These comments are disgusting, inhumane and reverses centuries worth of values our ancestors fought for. I dare you to place yourselves in their conditions and still say the same.

  14. Why? because it's on the countries' poor to take care of the refugees. only those who know what it is to want have the compassion necessary, but they lack the resources. operational failure

  15. "Causing people to suffer because you hate them is terrible, but causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care… that's really hard to understand." (Julian Bashir, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "Past Tense")

  16. None of you have been to Syria, I went there on a PMC and I could care less if they all die disgusting people.

  17. It's really weird how people react, I had took my father's life saving so I can reach Germany, and I know deep down that I am selfish person, I led group of 85 people in Greece and made it to Serbia, and then we had to separate because of the police, I saw children crying people dying, people of Europe people of ala around the world, We Syrians can't do any changings or fixings to Syria, I hope you wont face a war in future, then you don't have to face weapons in to your heads by armed Authorities, and you don't have to go out of your house hoping that you get back in the evening to your family alive.

    Anyways for me, the only way is complete my education and struggle to help my country.
    And I don't need a yes or a no from anybody, because my goal is my dedication.

  18. First Isreal/US air strikes Syria and no European countries came up to oppose that, making Syrian homeless and human fleed to neighboring Europe countries, so who should Europeans blames for the bombing of Paris? refugees or the politician who first attacked another country for their own benefit regardless of the consequences that other neighboring countries to bear? In the mean time, Obama visited refugees camps all over the world showing mercy to children that his administration permitted the first bombing that took place. Who is the real terrorist in this case?

  19. Such a strong and courageous women, should be preached day and night. All blessings, I hope she finds happiness in this world she has seen be so dull to her

  20. Wow, the number of killer comments. You should try visiting the page Humans of New York on Facebook. It brings me hope for humanity.

  21. +ccamelot I respect your point of view but if your seeking any more answers, my email address: [email protected] remember that we humans don't need answers, because we are sure that we are right, plz open your eyes wider and you will see the difference, I am very sorry if I said anything wrong, but I was trying to tell people what I think ( and its just an idea)about food and resources, for me its like investments and this is what's your countries been doing, they are investing in some of us.I think if you needed anymore answers you can email me. I will very glad to answer you anything you want.

  22. People should put them selves in the refugee's perspective before making ignorant comments. Regardless of race and gender its humanitarian!

  23. "the richer world has done too little to support them" What are you talking about, the U.S. is funding ISIS and Swedes love refugees! What more could you ask for?

  24. I used to think refugees shouldn't be allowed in countries, but then I thought… what if I was born in Syria and was just trying to live? The solution is thorough checks on the refugees along with internal anti-terrorism and measures (legislation) to protect the community from toxic Islamic values.

  25. Beware. America's sheer ignorance and lack of humanity is displayed amongst the comment section. If you want something more thought provoking to be fixated on, I suggest watching paint melt.

  26. Humanity as ONE.
    Nice idea, also totally unrealistic.
    I'm sorry, because I would very much like to live in a world of United Humanity and eternal peace.
    But that is just a dream.

  27. A lot of people forget YouTube is worldwide not just American or Europe..there are a lot of naive and uneducated people out there..there's no changing their minds through YouTube comment sections

  28. I don't know what possessed me to read the comments and ruin the rest of my day.
    To all of you who do not welcome the refugees into your countries, just read the history of your fathers and grandfathers, and how a 100 years ago you gave yourselves the right to go to other countries and not just lived there peacefully, but went as conquerors and oppressors. You accumulated huge wealth out of these countries, and now you do not want to help.
    What is happening in Syria and Iraq is your doing but we don't want you to suffer for that, however have a heart and a bit of compassion.

  29. Melissa Fleming:

    "And I understand the public fears. People are worried about their security, their economies, the changes of the culture. But is that more important than saving human lives?
    Because there is something fundamental here that I think overrides the rest, and it is about our common humanity. No person fleeing war or persecution should have to die crossing a sea to reach safety.

    我了解大眾的恐慌,人們擔心他們的安全、經濟、文化改變,但那有比救人一命更重要嗎?
    因為有件根本的事情,我認為其重要性超越其他者,它有關我們的共同人道精神,沒有任何逃離戰爭或迫害的人,應該在橫渡海洋以抵達安全之處時死亡。"

  30. lm an egyptien and i have not ever heard about this . this means that our media dont care about people life
    so sad😞

  31. for all of you who say negative things towards immagrants and refugees dont forget most of you peoples country was founded apon immigration and a place where any settlers can come , all culture. their are more deaths by car accidents then terrorism will ever reach

  32. Why advanced countries like Europe donate contribution for refugees? It is totally voluntary, not compulsory

  33. This makes me feel so blessed I was born in where I was because I know if my grandfather didn't come to the uk to study and have my mother I wouldn't have been born in the uk and I would probably be running away from Isis in Iraq and probably have the same fate as all the refugees

  34. This might be silly and obvious to everyone else, but why did the smaller boat ram the fishing boat? What were they going to do with them if they got on?

  35. Amazing how such tragic events that now told with thousands of lives already lost could generate such reptilian comments. We live in a dichotomous world, the ones that think they're safe and sound and hence free to pass their cruel comments are the anti-force to evolution, as self-centered as Hitler. They're just manure pile in the human evolution. Humanity can only go forward, never back to medieval age. We have to help each other, no other options. Although I do agree the politicians are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and the plan to relocate, screen and stop economic migrants are not well carried out. Please don't let the rotten apples ruin humanity's real ideal, that we are ONE, living in NOW. Details belong to the devil. Thanks for such warm yet heart-broken talk.

  36. IM STATELESS REFUGEE IN TURKEY .My name is Benyamin Gholizadeh. I am an Iranian asylum-seeker who has been living in Turkey as a refugee for the past seven years. I fled Iran to Turkey in 2010 because torture and imprisonment. I was held in Ward 209 of Evin Prison, and due to torture three of my neck bones broke. Now I live on daily medication and with constant pain. PLEASE SERCH MY NAME in google ( benyamin gholizadeh in the mafia ) . I started my asylum-seeking process when I was 24, and now I am 32. I have no hope for life. I am ready to donate my body parts so that they mercy-kill me and make me rid of this life. I can’t even be a Turkish citizen. I can’t work. I can’t live in Ankara or any other major city. It’s been seven years since I’ve been making signatures every week so that I won’t be deported. My ID is only a print that no office or bank or organization would accept. I have been observant of the Turkish laws even more than Turkish citizens. I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t take on all these organizations and individuals on my own. I am only a human being. Please help me.

  37. every life matters yeah i agree with her , i think Arab countries should agree with that as well and they too should start accepting refugees not just European countries.

  38. why there is a war in Syria. Now i maybe a little understand chinese government sayings"Stability overwhelming anything ". Hope no war in the world. Hope Syria can rebuild soon

  39. Guys, these comments disgust me. But what did I expect from YouTube?

    Still: I sort of get the point of not wanting to loose your culture. When I look at Calais, I'm thinking that very same question. Which question? you might ask. This question: How is it possible that I see pictures of a European town in the news and the only place I can link them with are those of slums in Africa? How can a group of countries who declared to respect human rights and which withholds some of the richest countries on earth not manage to provide appropriate shelter for human beings who turned to them in great need? Because isn't that what our culture should be? You say you want Christian values to be preserved. But one of the main values of Christianity is 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. And shouting 'go away' at somebody who risked their life in order to get away from something so bad that they took paying all they have just for crossing the Mediterranean Sea on boats that are in a horrible condition is as far away from Christian values as one can get. Same goes for European/Western values. Respecting human rights as well as basic democratic values.

    Hate only leads to more hate and therefore can't be an acceptable solution for any problem. On the other hand, being nice to others can save these persons days or even lives. So instead of creating a hole in which anyone 'new' or 'different' will fall, try reaching out to them and giving them a hand. Most human beings aren't that bad once you've just started talking to them.

  40. I've lost faith in humanity. Why? I keep looking in the YouTube Comment Section to torture myself. We need to create laws for YouTube.

  41. You got darn right my culture my land my people come first before saving a outsiders life like a Muslim culture as theirs maybe when my country as support finish with ours we can focus on them

  42. I think the comparion with Vietnam is pretty unreasonable and not convincable. Nearly 4 million Vietnamese died after 2 bombardments of US and France. This is deliberate, the attack on the sovereign country is unacceptable.

  43. It is so nice that invading somewhere better because you deserve it…… who cares your problems are now someone else's….

  44. As a child of Vietnamese immigrants this really touches my heart. I wish the best for all of the brave refugees out there.💝

  45. Now i feel sooo lucky that dad changed his mind and didn't went to Europe, I have lived in egypt for couple years first they were good to us but then they started to be cold hearted and now I'm in syria again, my mom told dad that she have a bad feeling about going to Europe she said that we will drown and die.

  46. if you are here too, please, don't go to the comments.
    i was the one to ingore the warnings too, but now i regret that. i'm warning you, the ignorance of people there is unbeliveable.
    if you were touched by that story and understood it, just don't go to the comment section. Don't let these heartless people destroy your hope. These people just blindly hate refugees, they don't even consider them as people, so there is no reason to listen to these idiots. Even if you think that they won't change your mind, just don't go there not to be disgusted.

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  48. What an absolutely abhorrent woman, it pains me that she bears a striking resemblance to my mom! If you're an educated person, you should have learned not to listen to your emotions but to your rational mind. The problem isn't how to save reckless people running scared, the problem is how to prevent countries like the US from meddling in the affairs of Syria and other middle eastern countries for the benefit of Israel.

  49. beautiful!…you can help refugees NOW just by playing a game on freerice. go to bit.ly/save-Refugees-now!... Each time you get a problem right, you donate 10 grains of rice. go to http://bit.ly/GO-DONATE-NOW for details <3

  50. http://bit.ly/2v8pBzE

    http://bit.ly/2qmGEt8

    http://bit.ly/2v4SooJ

    Click on any of these links to help refugees around the world, the first link is a poem about a refugee that changed her life and helped others like her.

  51. Liberals: “refugees have no choice and they are humans too so we should help, everyone has a different religion and we should respect that”
    Conservatives “they are brown and Muslim so I want them dead”

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