For months now, the European Union has been grappling with how address the flood of refugees, many from northern Africa, who have been crossing the Mediterranean in makeshift boats. In April alone, around 1,300 people died trying to make the journey. Since then, German naval ships have been patrolling refugee routes of the Mediterranean and have fished hundreds of people out of the water.
Even with the emergency aid aboard, Bundeswehr sailors are struggling to keep up with the sheer number of refugees. In an interview with Kieler Nachrichten, Stefan Klatt of the replenishment ship Werra spoke of the challenges the sailors are facing. During the interview, Captain Klatt mentioned offhandedly the one thing many ships are lacking: stuffed animals. When the children, many of whom are starving and terrified, are pulled to their rescue, oftentimes the only way the sailors can make them smile is with a small gift. The best things, said Klatt, are stuffed animals.
The people of Kiel responded to Klatt’s interview in a big way. That very evening, Kiel citizens began showing up on the docks where the Werra is moored, arms full of teddy bears, beanie babies and any other stuffed animal they could find. “They were all the sudden in front of the door,” said lieutenant commander Moritz Isenberg with a laugh. “We were completely surprised and had no idea where we could put all the stuffed animals.” The Werra team put together a “Stuffed Animal Task Force” to organize the toy intake.
The ship now has 15 crates full of stuffed animals, which Isenberg says should last through their next mission. The outpouring of compassion was touching for the entire Werra crew, many of whom will soon be in direct contact with the northern African refugees. On its last mission, 41 children were rescued from the Mediterranean. Because of the people of Kiel, the next round of young refugees will have something to hold onto as they are taken to safety.
Courtesy The Week in Germany (www.germany.info)
Photographs courtesy(©Quelle: 2015 Bundeswehr / Björn Wilke/Presse- und Informationszentrum Marine.