Tuesday 22 August 2017

'There was a child on deck looking for her mother, but she had not survived - it brought me to tears'

Jill Hamilton (37), a communications operator, served on the Irish Naval ship, LÉ Róisín
Jill Hamilton (37), a communications operator, served on the Irish Naval ship, LÉ Róisín

Ian Begley

A woman who helped save more than 1,000 migrants from the Mediterranean Sea was brought to tears when she described how she witnessed a young child being told her mother was dead.

Jill Hamilton (37), a communications operator, served on LÉ Róisín on a three-month humanitarian mission to aid migrants fleeing Syria and other Middle Eastern and African countries.

A month after the ship's departure, it responded to a request for help from the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

The flimsy rubber dinghy was located 37 nautical miles off the coast of Tripoli with 111 migrants on board.

Speaking from South Lebanon, the Co Cork native told the Irish Independent that the operation was particularly traumatic for her.

"What sticks out to me was that there was a child up on deck with her auntie looking for her mother. Unfortunately, that lady never made it.

"When they told the child and her auntie that the mother didn't make it, it was just traumatic," she said.

Ms Hamilton added that she feels the migration crisis deserves "a hell of a lot more attention".

Ms Hamilton, who has served 19 years in the Irish Naval Service, is now stationed in South Lebanon as part of the UN mandate force UNIFIL.

Irish Independent

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