Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Convoys II

We were given a police radio, instructed in its use and told just to listen and not talk, unless we found ourselves in immediate danger. Out of hearing range from the scene, we were the only ones who didn't need an earpiece for the radio, so all four of us could listen in. We heard as orders were given, roadblocks inserted, a sterile area set up and snipers took up their positions. Further instructions were repeated and confirmed by the officers, and as each group arrived at its starting point, the radio traffic stopped and a tense silence filled the air.

Suddenly, an order is barked across the airwaves. 

"GO! GO! GO!" 

I knew exactly what was about to happen, and couldn't help thinking back again to the days when I would have been a part of the action. There's nothing quite like the feeling of adrenaline coursing through the body, that mix of anxiety, fear, anticipation and knowledge that you were doing a dangerous job that had to be done. The feeling that you were looking out for others, and that they were doing the same for you. Trusting someone with your life loses its cliche status when you have to do it for real.

Information was shouted back and forth, much of it in pre-agreed codes, some of which I could remember, others not. We couldn't see or hear the actual raid, but each radio message gave us another snippet of information as to how it was progressing. After a short few minutes, even before the information had been relayed by radio, we knew it was all over. 

In the distance, a police motorbike had switched its blue lights back on, and several other of the vehicles followed suit. No more than thirty seconds passed, when the call came for us. 

"Ambulance crews come forwards. Scene is secure."

Being told that the scene was secure gave us no clues as to what we would see when we pulled up. The senior officer met us outside, and gave us a brief overview. The fact that he was speaking to us at all calmed us down and left us with the feeling that there were certainly no officers hurt, and that there were no serious injuries at all. 

"They're in two rooms down in the basement. We've got no idea how long they've been there, but it must be some time." 

The tip-off note had told the police of one or two hostages, and as he spoke in plural, we presumed it was the latter. The narrow concrete stairs were lit by the dull green glow of an emergency exit sign at the top, whilst a small glint of light appeared down at the bottom from behind a wooden door. Several voices wafted their way towards us, some talking, some moaning, some crying. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw.

Wearing nothing but underwear, nearly twenty men, aged from their teens to their sixties, were having their hands and feet untied by countless police officers. Several still had masking tape across their mouths that they were now trying to remove as gently as possible. Some didn't care about the pain, ripping the tape off in a swift motion, relieved to be finally freed of their shackles. A few could do nothing but hang on to the police officers who were the first into the room. The sight of scarcely clothed, emaciated men clinging tearfully to heavily armed and armoured police was one which would not leave my visions for some time.

They had been in that basement for anything up to a year, having been smuggled out of their home country by various means. On a promise of a better life, they were told they were headed for jobs that would keep them housed and cared for, and their families financed and fed. In reality, they'd been held as servants and slaves. They were beaten regularly, and tied up in the basement every night. A few of them had obvious fractures that had healed badly, arms and legs at unnatural angles. All were bruised, dehydrated and malnourished, like a picture from a prisoner-of-war camp.

One by one, they were either assisted or carried up the stairs, the most seriously injured or ill to waiting ambulances that had been requested the second we walked in, the rest were helped into a police minibus. At the same time, the handful of people who'd held their own captives turned into prisoners themselves. Handcuffs firmly in place, each guarded by at least two officers, they were placed in prison vans and driven away in a line of flashing blue lights.

In the opposite direction, guarded front and back by police bikes, a convoy of ambulances carrying a fragile but relieved cargo, gently snaked its way to hospital. 


Rastas000 said...

I am sitting here in a cold sweat and elevated heart rate.. Great imagery with a much better then hoped for outcome. Nice piece..

Walkingborder (Karen) said...

Well shit. I don't know what else to say. Did not see this coming at all.

Wannabe Paramedic said...

Brillaint write. However it's a shame it was reality.

Lydia said...

wow. I thought you were describing a training exercise for most of that.
man's inhumanity to man - so glad you could be a part of their restoration. makes you wonder how many others are as yet unfound...

Charmaine S said...

Unbelievable! The abuse and trauma inflicted on those men, not only in body but also in mind, makes my head spin. Life for them will likely never be the same again. I am overwhelmed with compassion for them.

Becca said...

Strewth. Those poor lads... I hope they will continue to be treated with care and compassion once they are well and reduced to just being another 'illegal immigrant'.

Michael Morse said...

Good lord, man, that is unbelievable. In all of my years doing this I've never been witness to anything close to what you describe. It must have been incredible, I think i would have broken down at the sight, kind of like I'm doing as I write this.


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