United Nations and Amnesty International
In mid September 2015, a boat that was going from Bodrum in Turkey to the Greek Island of Kos, ushering aboard more than 270 refugees (mostly Syrians seeking asylum), sank in the Aegean Sea killing 22 people. The survivors were then taken into two different camps, one in Bodrum and another one in Osmaniye province. The ones in Bodrum were released a few days after the horrifying incident, however, those taken to Osmaniye (about 150 refugees) were kept at a detention camp with barely any means for survival. I found myself on this project by mere coincidence. A journalist at Vice News wanted to investigate the incident, and they needed someone to translate voice messages arriving from those detained in Osmaniye. It was a Sunday morning, and no translator was readily available, so I volunteered to translate from Arabic to English for that day. I was able to obtain the phone numbers of a few detainees, whom I called to listen to their stories. By the end of the day I had heard so many horror stories, that there was no way I was leaving this project. Over the next two days, I collected as many stories as I could, compiled them in a report, and was connected to someone at Amnesty International with whom I shared the report. Overnight, Amnesty issued Urgent Action EUR 44/2521/2015 asking the Turkish Government to release all detainees. Shortly after, I received a call from the head of UNHCR in the Middle East asking to send them an updated report, and compile a list containing the names of those detained. By the beginning of October, the UN was already inside the camp asking for individuals to be released immediately. The UN managed to get everyone who had not already been sent back to Syria released by 12 October 2015.
I shared the stories that I had collected during that month with investigative journalist John Beck, who then worked on a piece that was titled Investigating the Fatal Sinking of a Refugee Boat and the Brutal Treatment of Those Who Survived. The article appeared in Vice News on 14 March 2016, and was nominated for the Bayeux-Calvados Award on war correspondence.