Jim picked up this prestigious award in Glasgow recently. It was presented by athletes, Eilidh Doyle and Zoey Clark ... read more
From 23 July Stirling Observer Article
Fireman Jim Snedden has volunteered to go back to the Mediterranean on another refugee rescue mission after helping to save the lives of more than 2000 immigrants and he has earned this year's first
When firefighter Jim Snedden closes his eyes, he still sees the faces of the helpless little refugee babies and children he rescued from the sea and carried to safety. It may be nearly a year since the dad of three helped save the lives of more than 2000 immigrants stranded in flimsy dinghies in the Mediterranean but to him it seems like only yesterday. Jim spent three weeks last summer on a mercy mission with the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) charity helping refugees fleeing conflict in Africa and the Middle East via Libya. He is still haunted by the memories. As well as pulling men, women and children from the overcrowded boats, the trained rescue swimmer also plucked dozens from the sea who had fallen overboard. Jim, whose selfless bravery has earned him this year’s first Sunday Mail Great Scot Award nomination, is preparing to return to the Mediterranean, where the humanitarian crisis continues.
He said: “I constantly think about the desperate souls on those boats. When I was out there, I was too busy to think about anything except getting people to safety but, since returning to Scotland, I haven’t been able to get the refugees – especially the babies and little children – out of my head. “The pictures on the news don’t do the horror of their plight justice. One day I boarded a small dinghy packed with at least 130 people. I noticed a hand reaching into the air from below the crush. I pulled out a 16-year-old girl, who threw her arms round my neck and refused to let go. I will never forget the look in her eyes.” Jim, of Dunblane, added: “I came home and hugged my children tighter than I have ever hugged them before. Seeing what I saw has made me appreciate my life even more. “I’ve signed up for another three-week mission with the MOAS in Malta and am expecting the call any day now. I just want to do as much as I can to help with what has become one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time.”
Jim, who trains members of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in swift water, river and flood rescues, admits it breaks his heart that, for the refugees, risking their lives trying to get into Europe is safer than staying at home. He said: “Before I left, I asked myself how parents could put their children’s lives at risk on these vessels but, after talking to them, I realised what they were fleeing from was far worse. “Some had been travelling for eight months, ending up in Libya where the men were tortured, children were kidnapped and women raped. They would rather die at sea than live in Libya.”
The firefighter, who is dad to Lewis, 19, Stephanie, 18, and Vicki, 12, said: “My family knew I’d end up going back and they’ve been super-supportive, as have the Fire Service.”
Jim, who is married to teacher Helen added: “It’s a real honour to be nominated for an award. I can’t believe it.”