Canadian doctor on highs and lows of migrant rescue work
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, December 9, 2016 11:29AM EST
Dr. Sarah Giles has been home in Canada for two weeks, but her heart is still aboard the migrant rescue ship MV Aquarius, where she spent the past four months in the Mediterranean Sea as part of her ongoing work with Doctors Without Borders.
According to the organization, 2016 was the deadliest year on record for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. At the beginning of December, Doctors Without Borders reported that some 4,690 migrants had died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, 1,000 more than in 2015.
During an interview on CTV’s Your Morning Friday, Giles recalled a particularly painful memory from her time on the ship. She said a plane had spotted a boat sinking in the Mediterranean Sea and refugees were already in the water. They were called to locate the boat and save the drowning passengers. Despite their best efforts, Giles said they were unable find the boat in distress.
“You know that there are 140 people or more and you can’t find them,” she said. “That’s the worst feeling in the world.”
Another experience that stood out for Giles occurred when a 10-year-old boy boarded their ship with his three younger siblings and no parents. The boy had taken on a parental role for his siblings, all of whom were still in diapers. She said the boy did a great job of keeping his family together on the ship, but she could tell the massive responsibility was taking its toll on him.
There were other bittersweet moments for Giles aboard the MV Aquarius. She helped deliver a baby who would not have survived if the birth was just 12 hours earlier.
“That’s a huge high, but then you also see the kids on the boat who are alone and don’t have their parents and will never have a moment like that with their families,” Giles said.
Giles said Canada needs to accept more refugees escaping terrible conditions at home and give more financial aid to countries that are struggling. She said she hopes that Canadians will realize that migrants aren’t that different from themselves.
“I think people need to be kind. It sounds silly, but these are people like you and I,” Giles said. “When you meet them and you live with them on the boat for days at a time, they have hopes and dreams for themselves and their kids, just like you and I have.”