Miracle model saves dying Syrian refugee from drowning
Sandra Tsiligeridu, 42, hugs a Syrian man who was on the brink of dying at sea near Kos. (Facebook)
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A former model rescued a Syrian refugee on the brink of dying from exhaustion who she found floating in the sea off the Greek coast.
Sandra Tsiligeridu, 42, was returning from an excursion to the island of Pserimos, ten miles from Kos, with her husband, eight-year-old daughter, and friends when she spotted a man in the water.
The news comes as it emerged that 11 other refugees, believed to be Syrian, drowned today when two boats sank near Kos.
Among them was a child, believed to be only two or three years old, a victim of the migrant crisis that has seen thousands risk their lives to escape war and violence in their own own countries.
Thinking Mohammed was a diver, the group initially turned to avoid him but Sandra noticed the man was in distress.
The group stopped and pulled him from the water. They then realised he had spent 13 hours in the water after diving in to retrieve an oar from a boat with 40 other Syrians that set off from Turkey.
She told Italian newspaper La Repubblica: ‘We saw hands break the surface of the water and my husband thought It was a diver so he started steering away so as not to hit him.
'But I realised he was in difficulty and began to shout.’
Mrs Tsigeridu said she couldn't stop herself from crying as the approached the man, who was visibly very cold.
She added: ‘He was done in and in a hypothermic state,shaking. He asked me why I had tears in my eyes and I said I was crying for him. He was struck dumb.’
The Syrian had set off at 5am from Turkey with 40 other Syrians on a dinghy with no motor and dived in to recover an oar.
But the sea was rough and he could not get back in. He was distanced from the raft although they were able to throw him a life vest, which ultimately saved his life.
Sandra wrapped towels around him and took him back to Kos as quickly as possible. She hugged and comforted him the entire way back to port.
She shared a picture of her cradling him in her arms on Facebook, which then went viral. with thousands saluting her spontaneous kindness as an example for other Europeans.
But the Athenian mother of one insists she is ‘not a hero’ and just did what anyone would have done.
Now she wants to set up a volunteer force to care for refugees – and says that her new friend can come and live with her and her family if he wants.
She said the experience has changed her life and was ‘a signal’ for her to help other refugees.
‘It should be an everyday gesture but people thought it was exceptional.
'Before I met Mohammed I was angry and sad at the scenes I saw on television. I asked myself “Why do they come here?" Now I think something else.’
She said the UN should set up a battalion of volunteers in each country.
‘I could cook for ten and give them clothes for example.’
She said it would be ‘no problem’ for Mohammed to come and live with her ‘even though I already have four relatives to look after at home’.
‘Refugees have no choice they leave because they have to and abandon everything even their families.’
‘Now I understand the value of human life.’
The news comes amid warnings from the UN to Europe's leaders, asking them to open their eyes to the plight faced by thousands of migrants willing to risk death for a better life.
The eleven Syrians who died this morning are among 2,500 who have died this year alone while trying to cross the sea to flee violence, oppression and persecution.
Most hope to be transported to northern Greece and travel towards Hungary, Europe's only border that is not policed.
By James Dunn
- The 'death trip': an inside look into the perilious business of getting Syrian refugees to Europe
- Turkey now hosts highest number of refugees in the world, says UN
- A possible 500 refugees feared drowned crossing the Mediterranean
- Amnesty: world response to refugee crisis is “shameful”
- Two Syrian girls drown off Lebanese coast