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3 US merchant sailors to get UN medal

Three US merchant sailors will be awarded the prestigious Nansen Medal for rescuing 85 Vietnamese boat people in a storm at sea, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday.

The decision to honor the seamen was made in tribute to ''the numerous sailors and other persons often unknown to the UNHCR who, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, have contributed to the rescue of boat people,'' a UNHCR statement said.

There have been recent reports of merchant vessels ignoring pleas for help from boat people. UNHCR officials said they hoped the award would encourage other mariners to follow the example of these three.

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