BARCELONA, Spain — Andrew Thoms and Maite Lorente will screen the film “Astral”, on Friday, January 20 . The film is about a yacht turned into a rescue boat for refugees [ video ]
The documentary follows Spanish journalist Jordi Évole, as he embarks on a journey aboard a luxury vessel donated by a millionaire to rescue refugees from the sea that arrive in Europe. The documentary is in Spanish, but will be screened with English subtitles.
A year ago, Oscar Camps, a Spaniard, was a lifeguard who traveled with a colleague to the Greek island of Lesbos to see what he could do to help as thousands of Syrian refugees washed up from Turkey.
He had tried to volunteer for different European organizations and embassies, but was turned down, and arrived on the island with little more than swim fins.
Mr. Camps said he had no idea how critical the situation in Lesbos had become.
Within two hours of their arrival, he and his friend were taking off their shirts and shoes to jump into the sea to save people from drowning, after watching a boat sink close to the island’s rocky northern coast.
Lesbos “changed my view on almost everything,” Mr. Camps recalled in a recent interview.
“I realized that Europe’s inaction was absolutely deliberate — a decision by the European Union to use the Mediterranean and the Aegean as dissuasive tools, to send the message to people that they shouldn’t try to come because they would drown.”
The situation spurred him to action, and he decided to start his own nongovernmental aid group, Proactiva, through a crowdfunding campaign.
Initially, he reused rickety vessels abandoned by refugees on the shores of Lesbos, and he invested 15,000 euros, or about $16,600, himself to buy equipment, as well as to bring two Jet Skis to Lesbos from Spain.
But a big break came last May, when Livio Lo Monaco, the Italian owner of a Spanish mattress company, donated his yacht, the Astral.
Since it started prowling the Mediterranean, the repurposed luxury sailing yacht has helped rescue about 15,000 refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by boat, mostly from Libya, Mr. Camps estimated.
The Astral’s work has made Mr. Camps something of a celebrity in Spain, as well as the subject of a recent documentary film that helped raise funds for his organization, which now has an annual budget of about €1 million.
The boat’s crew helped save about 6,000 people in the Mediterranean on a single day last summer.
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