Like a lot of people I’ve been shocked and saddened to see the images of the dead children washing up on the shores of the Eastern Mediteranean beaches and to hear of the desperate plight of the 3 – 4,000 refugees camped in Calais with precious little food, shelter or sanitation. I find it hard to comprehend that this is happening in 21st Century Europe – an area of great priveledge and wealth.
I also share the disgust felt by many on hearing the torrents of bile spewed out by mainstream media that aims to de-humanize these people and stress the inconvenience experienced by tourists, transport operators and the drain on the economy. Heaven forbid! Yet they fail to mention the inconveniences experienced by these refugees who are fleeing droughts, dictatorships and wars. Arguably contributed to by Western foreign policy.
Meanwhile, refugees suffocate in lorries and drown in flimsy boats in their efforts to breach Fortress Europe and reach safety whilst our politicians split hairs about what to call them and do little to help. These people – migrants, refugees, asylum seekers are human beings too FFS! People reaching out for help after enduring much suffering and have been failed badly.
Yet no more, although just a drop-in the hungry sea, a groundswell of support across Europe is growing, created by everyday people like you and me who are sick of the authoritie’s inaction. Solidarity groups are springing up hourly and people are joining en mass, people are opening their homes and the donations are beginning to roll in.
Feeling grateful to take some positive action, I went to my first meeting of the Calais Refugee Solidarity Bristol group last night. Naively, I thought this would just be about arranging collections of blankets, tents and clothes. I didn’t realise there was so much to consider. You can’t just rock up with a van load of stuff to the Jungle camp as distribution would not be even and you may not even be taking the right stuff.
The local group are working hard to set up collection points for donations as well as having a fundraising site to collect monies to send over to support local charities working in the area such as Association Salam, Secours Catholique Calais and Doctors of the World who are so short of funds they may have to pull out soon. Financial donations are also required to cover transport costs to get stuff over there and to buy items like food and building materials locally.
A fundraising gig for the 17th September at the Plough in Easton is being organised. Interviews are being arranged with local media to spread the word and designers are hastily creating flyers and graphics for collection tins and posters.
Conditions in the jungle sound pretty dire – they have just four standpipes which are currently surrounded by two feet of dirty water which people have to stand in whilst drawing on it. Four taps – between 3 -4,000 people? I have more than that in my home and that’s just for me. There is little drainage in the camp creating floods which will only get worse as the weather turns. There are few solid structures let alone heating and although many tents have been donated, I would not wish my worst enemy to endure the cold and wet of a Northern European winter in a flimsy tent last used at a summer festival.
There are around 3,500 people at the camp and the French Government provides 2,500 meals per day. People here are hungry, cold and wet. There is precious little infrastructure and the charities there are struggling to cope. Volunteers are needed there – to help build shelters, dig drainage ditches and to help with medical needs.
If you’re not able to volunteer help at the camp, there are many other ways in which you can help if you feel inspired to. Can your church/ mosque/ temple/ synagogue/ school/ community group get involved?
Join a local group, most of which are joining with central groups such as CalAid and Calais – People to People Solidarity – Action From the UK. A map of local groups can be found here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?usp=sharing&mid=z0IlKDKjh8U0.kynDNxGpqDP4
The Facebook group of the local Bristol group which has lots of useful info under the “files” section can be found here. Please also please read FAQ to avoid duplicating requests for info. They have sub-groups for convoys and collections; fundraising; media and publicity and campaigns and networks if you can get involved in any of those activities.
Their fundsurfer page can be found here: https://www.fundsurfer.com/project/calais-refugee-support-group-bristo
It was stressed how important it was to collect and send relevant and required items for the camps. These change weekly and it’s recommended to keep checking on this. I found this list on the Bristol group facebook page:
An Amazon wish list has also been created for items needed:
And the Independent published this article on ways to help refugees:
And of course signing any petitions and writing to your local MP are also important as a changing policy here is vital to securing long term change.
There is also a National Day of Action planned for the 12th September. Join “Stand up to Racism” at midday at the Fountains in Bristol City Center.
This is the largest crisis in migration in Europe since the Second World War. Please do whatever you can to help. Thank you.