The Cestus Dei report contains a transcript of an interview with one of the refugees. A Doctor hoping to eventually make it to the UK with his family. I’m including some excerpts but I won’t reproduce his whole statement here. I think you’ll agree he is a brave and dedicated man. I’m recommending to my superiors that he be offered UK citizenship and a job with the Department.
God willing I shall never have to endure another journey like that. We expected to be robbed and lied to but not the horror…
It was the third night on the ship before we began to realise that we were not dealing with the normal traumas of war and disease. I had chosen to stay with the sick. My wife was caring for my daughter and my son. I told her to keep them as far away from the sick as possible and to take great care of our water and our food that they not get contaminated. You must understand that we thought we were only fighting illness.
I’m sure that we should have been cold. There was a storm raging and the metal of the ship was cold to the touch but in the hold we sweltered. There was a haze of sweat and fear and desperation that clung to the floor and almost seemed to suffocate the sick as they lay there. I could hear them wheezing as they struggled to breathe.
I began to grow drowsy. I had not expected that. Since the war started I have spent many nights tending to the sick and while I am like a sleep-walker by the small hours I have never had such trouble staying awake.
I do not know how long I slept but I was awoken by screams. At first I thought it was more of the nightmares that had plagued us all but the first thing I saw, or seemed to see, as I woke was a dark figure crouched over one of my patients.
The storm had grown much worse while I slept. I had to fight the rolling of the ship to stand. I flung myself at the thing with no thought other than to protect my patient.
There was nothing there. I passed right through where I thought I had seen the figure and stumbled over the body of my patient. She was still alive but was gasping for breath and clawing at her own throat and she was icy cold. As I looked around the hold it seemed to be full of some dark fog that clung to the floor and resisted the motion of the ship. I could see it out of the corner of my eye but it disappeared whenever I tried to look at it.
My patient complained of a great thirst and I gave her such water as I had and helped her to sip it. Once she had regained her strength enough to drink unaided I went to wake the other volunteers and check on the rest of our patients. While I was doing this I became aware of sobbing from beyond the curtain we had raised to quarantine the sick.
I dreaded to look beyond the curtain and to do so meant to break the quarantine that I myself had insisted on but I could not ignore the sobs. I parted the curtain and I saw a young man crouched with his back to me and his shoulders shuddering. He had one hand to his mouth trying to stifle the sobs. It is a pose I have come to recognise. It is the reaction of someone who fears the consequences of their pain being overheard.
The young man was squatting by the side of of a prone figure and leaning over it. He had his hand on the neck of the person on the floor and, for a moment, I thought I had disturbed an attack but when I raised my torch I saw that he was trying to apply pressure to a wound.
When the light fell on the body he turned and he looked at me with pleading eyes. I could not resist the horror and desperation I saw on his face. I had to at least try to help even though I could see from the blood pooling around the body that there was almost certainly no point.
I have seen many horrific wounds in my time but few matched what I saw that night. The old man on the floor had deep gouges across his neck. Not one wound but at least two and each one ragged as if he had been torn open rather than cut. I got to the old man just as the last light left his eyes. The boy begged me to do something. The old man had been his grandfather and his last living relative but there was nothing to be done. Had the old man arrived in the finest and best equipped hospital in the world in that condition I doubt they could have done much for him. He had simply lost too much blood.
But the old man had died fighting. I could see that immediately. By the light of my torch I could see that the old man’s hands were bruised and scratched, his knuckles were bloody, he had a boxer’s fracture [a fracture of the knuckle of the little fingers] on his left hand and his fingernails were torn. His eyes were bloodshot and he had petechiae [tiny red marks caused by hemorrhages] on the inside of his eyelids. It seemed that someone had tried to choke or suffocate the old man and he had fought back.
A crowd gathered and after a few moments voices were raised against the boy. They said he must have done it since he was covered in the old man’s blood. I was able to quiet the accusations by pointing at the old man’s hands and the boy’s unmarked face.
That left us with only the problem of how to deal with the body now that the ship was heaving far too much to attempt to carry it up the ladder to the deck.
Since this is already pretty long I’m going to break it here and come back to it.