Cheltenham man helps look for Syrian refugees
A MAN helped to look out for Syrian refugees when on holiday near the country.
Matt Campbell, 24, and his 25-year-old girlfriend Maddy Godson, were invited to a watch point in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to spot any refugees trying to boat across to the island.
The pair were driving near the north-eastern coast when they met a policeman who invited them to witness part of his daily duties.
They were asked to join him at a nearby police station and handed a pair of binoculars as they looked out to sea to the east.
Matt, a marketing assistant who lives on the Promenade in Cheltenham, said: “We thought it was going to be a big station but it was basically just a hut with two storeys and a watch tower.
“We went around the back and climbed some old, wooden steps. We went up to what would have been the roof, but there was a terrace there, which had a small roof for when it rained. He had one seat and brought a couple more for us to sit down. He had a large pair of heavy-duty binoculars in his hand and pointed across the sea and said ‘Syria. Big problem’. He said he’d definitely seen some refugee boats but so far less than double figures.”
The couple had driven up to the top of the Karpaz peninsula after spending part of the afternoon at a nearby beach. They drove north as far as the road would allow when they noticed a police car behind them.
”All of a sudden this blue police car was behind us,” Matt said. “But it was quite far back and we were driving very slowly. We thought it was following us in the distance. We got out of the car when we couldn’t go any further and he drove up beside us with his window down. I said how hot it was and made a bit of small talk and he told us to come and join him at the police station for some coffee. He told us where to go and drove off. We went on foot and climbed up over some rocks and saw it was a tiny little structure.
“It was just him on his own. He had a pair of what seemed to be normal binoculars but bigger. They looked about 20 years old. We asked what he was looking at. We saw a couple of fishing boats and he said it took 20 minutes to get across the water from Syria. He said he drove around the coast and would sit in the watch tower every day. Sometimes he would be in the tower for three days.”
Matt added the policeman, a Turkish Cypriot in his forties, had worked at a larger police station in the nearby city of Famagusta but preferred to be based near the coast. He was in constant contact with police control further inland.
Maddy, from Clapham in London, said she had enjoyed the experience and using the binoculars.
Turkey is sheltering a quarter of the two million people who have fled Syria, island newspaper Cyprus Today reported.