How Norfolk rescue workers are saving migrants’ lives in the Mediterranean
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Two Norfolk search and rescue workers who saved migrants' lives in Greece have been hailed as heroes in front of thousands of football fans.
Paul Chamberlain, vice-chairman of Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NORLSAR), and Duncan Barrow, a watch manager for Norfolk Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, are back on British soil after helping with the Maltese Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) operation in the Aegean Sea.
They presented the match ball at Carrow Road on Saturday before the Canaries' played Manchester United - after being named Norwich City's Community Heroes.
The rescue swimmers spent a few weeks on the Responder boat at the Greek island of Samos - home to a large migrant camp - sailing out with a 10-strong rescue team to watch for migrant boats heading from Turkey.
Mr Chamberlain, 43, said he thinks the team - which included a doctor and nurse - saw about 100 migrants during their stint, with 55 people, including a six-week-old baby, crammed into a 20-foot-long inflatable on the first day.
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What stayed with him was the 'desperation in their eyes'.
He said: 'We are dealing with people who have left everything they have behind to take this risk. 'Those who can afford them have life jackets, filled with what is essentially bubble wrap, and those who can't just have inner tubes.'
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There were no lives lost in the area during Mr Chamberlain's time helping.
The father-of-three, who lives in Banham, near Attleborough, said:
'The scale of incidents is just
so much larger than I am used to here.'
The team's role was to keep a watch for migrant boats on the Responder and speed out to them on launch boats named after Syrian brothers Aylan, three, and Ghalib Kurdi, five, who died when their small rubber boat capsized.
If required, the team would either take migrants, a mix of men, women and children, on board or help them onto other boats to be taken back to shore.
The Responder was originally due to sail to the Mediterranean Sea, where the majority of the lives are lost, but the high cost of hiring the boat and running the operation - put at about $9,000 a day - saw MOAS halt its plans.
Instead, its own, smaller, boat Pheonix will launch in the sea at the start of June, an operation Mr ChamrberlainChamrberlain is considering joining.
Mr Chamberlain and Mr Barrow both encouraged the public to donate to MOAS, which relies solely on donations to keep going.
'When the pictures of the two brothers were all over the newspapers, MOAS had a wave of donations,' he said. 'Now, the number of deaths is falling, which - whilst it is good news - means it is out of the papers and there is less support, which is still desperately needed.'
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