Rescue volunteer from Banham, near Diss, details migrant rescues at sea

Paul Chamberlain during his volunteering with MOAS to help rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea,

Paul Chamberlain during his volunteering with MOAS to help rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, in June. Picture: Jason Florio/MOAS - Credit: Jason Florio/MOAS

A rescue worker has described the horrific plight of migrants - including young children - who are risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

Paul Chamberlain, vice-chairman of Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue, has returned home to Banham, near Diss, after volunteering with the charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

He has helped with the rescue of hundreds of migrants off Libya's coast – hoping to escape conflict and poverty - who are packed on rubber dinghies by traffickers operating in the area.

The father-of-three said: 'When you see the young babies still in baby grows you just need to focus on them. Although the water is warm, you know full well the baby is not going to survive in that water.

'You have got to be pretty desperate to board that boat.'

Mr Chamberlain said when the rescue vessel reaches the dinghies, which he describes as 'massively

over cramped and hugely underpowered', there is not always a sense

Most Read

of panic among the occupants.

He said: 'There is almost a really bizarre calm which seems to descend over some of the boats. I don't know if that is because some boats have been out there for 12 hours and they have almost made peace with themselves.'

During one rescue Mr Chamberlain got into trouble as he was pulling two people to the rescue boat. He passed out while waiting to be pulled back onto the boat and had to be rescued.

The 43-year-old has downplayed the incident and said the focus should be on the migrants - during that rescue 133 people were saved.

'This year alone, MOAS has rescued 15,000 people', he said. 'We have kind of become desensitised in the UK. I think the biggest problem we have got in the post Brexit world we live in is this really anti-migrant feeling across the country.

'It is easy enough for people to say send them home. Well actually, I would love to take some of these people out on the boat and hand them an eight-month-old baby.'