I will never forget the moment when I saw a sinking boat full of terrified people. I was frozen with terror. We saved 1,300 refugees over the period of two weeks
In the years 2015-2016, the largest number of refugees arrived in Europe since World War Two. Amongst them, there are immigrants from North and East Africa, Near East (including Syria), Eastern Europe and the Caucasus – the areas where wars are being waged and people are being persecuted. The member states of the European Union are obliged to provide shelter to the people applying for a ‘refugee’ status (in line with the Geneva Convention). This law, together with the economic situation and the fact that all the borders within the EU are open, make Europe an ideal destination of the dramatic and often extremely perilous wanderings of the refugees.
Faced with high numbers of migrants, the European Union found itself lacking suitable procedures of accepting refugees, which in turn resulted in chaos and decline in member states’ willingness to provide aid to asylum seekers. That led to decline in solidarity within the Union with regard to the impending crisis. The largest number of refugees turned up in the border states, such as Greece and Italy, as well as Turkey which is a non-EU country, thus posing a major problem for their governments.
In April 2015, Jacob Schoen passed his high school graduation exam. Soon after, he read in a paper that a boat carrying 800 refugees sank on the Mediterranean. He gathered information on rescue missions, found out what kind of ships are used in such missions, counted how much money he would need, and set off for Hamburg, a port city, to meet with experts. In autumn, he founded an organization called Jugend Rettet.
By May 2016, the youth collected 290,000 euro via a crowdfunding campaign. They purchased, renovated and equipped a fishing vessel. The money sufficed for the first missions.
“I was planning to go to uni, European Studies, but at this moment I could not engage in anything else,” Jacob told the reporter of Duży Format supplement to Gazeta Wyborcza Polish daily.
Already during the first mission of ‘Iuventa’ Jacob participated in a rescue action. “I will never forget the moment when I saw a sinking boat full of terrified people. I was frozen with terror. We saved 1,300 refugees over the period of two weeks.”
The organisation ambassadors are active in several dozen European cities, seeking support for the project. The boat crew consists of international team of professionals and amateurs, all of them volunteers.
“Our goal is clear,” they inform on the organisation website. “To limit the number of deaths on the Mediterranean.”
The organisation founded by Jacob also serves as a platform to exchange opinions. “We want to let the young people speak, to open a discussion – aimed at finding solutions – on the shortcomings of the current asylum policy, and developing a new policy for the future.”
By uniting young Europeans, Jugend Rettet wants to stress the importance of developing together a more humanitarian migration policy.
“Our boat is by no means a long-term solution, but it will save people’s lives and will encourage reflection on why young people are involved in this problem, rather than the European Union governments.”