Saturday, September 05, 2015

Calais refugees are stuck in the Jungle. What can we do? We need to get ready!

The Calais Jungle refugee camp

There are rumours that increased numbers of Syrians will be allowed to claim asylum in the UK.  This is because the prime minister David Cameron and the Tory government is under pressure from increasing numbers of British citizens to allow more refugees to seek asylum here.  This is good news if indeed more refugees will, at long last, find safe haven here.  However, this will NOT help a single refugee in the Calais Jungle camp.  Any new asylum seekers will only be granted access to the UK directly from Syria and not from Calais.  There will still be a refugee crisis for the tens of thousands of men, winding across Europe, the majority of whom are fleeing from war torn countries, dictatorships and disaster.  These refugees are all mums, dads, sons and daughters, and they are all desperate to find a safe place to sleep and a secure place to live.

Can you help? Of course I can!

Hundreds of these escaping people will find their way to Calais.  Their hope is to make it to the UK.  However, they will find their way blocked by the English Channel and no legal way to cross to England.  Access to the port and railway is blocked by high security fences, razor wire, security guards and riot police. Thousands of refugees will remain stuck in limbo in Calais, with no option but to find shelter in the unofficial Jungle refugee camp.

So what do we do? We need to prepare! Winter is coming: rain, wind and cold.  Please collect more men's winter clothes, more footwear, more sleeping bags and more blankets. Get organised! Sort and pack donations by type. Collect together donations locally. Gather together supporters of the Calais refugees. Organise a van to take donations to the regional collection points. Watch the groups for news of new improved storage and distribution channels.
 

The arrival in recent times of thousands of refugees in the camp is challenging existing methods of support in Calais. This is normal for any operation. Increased demand needs to be met by increased supply and improved methods of distribution. Please don't be disheartened by stories of delay and hassles distributing in the camp.

Your donations of food and clothing will continue to make better the existence and everyday lives of the refugees in the camp. Your expressions of compassion and your efforts to ensure these men, women, boy and girls are provided safe haven is having a positive impact.

Calais people-to-people Solidarity - Action from the UK



If you want to donate food, clothes, money or volunteer your time to help the men, women, boys and girls in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp, please join the Facebook group Calais - People to People Solidarity - Action from UK

Do you have some community news from around the Ormskirk area to share or a story to tell? Yes!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Asylum Seeker dispersal areas are typically in economically and socially deprived areas

The Sudan quarter of the Calais Refugee Camp

I spent Wednesday evening with my wife Heather filtering through reams of research material for the BBC Radio Lancashire radio interview on Thursday 3rd September 2015. In the end of course, I didn't need all the the statistics or "fun facts" about seeking asylum in the UK.  But it was reassuring to have something in the bag to pull out if needed.

What I learned though, through doing the research, is that the UK asylum system is totally disfunctional. The only people who seem to win are MP's who ensure that Asylum Seekers are dispersed across the country, far away from their safe seats. The other winners are the private companies contracted to manage the system. These companies are rewarded huge amounts of tax-payer's money for delivering sub-standard services. What's more they include the usual suspects. You've heard of them all before as they are same companies who keep cropping up in connection with the running of private prisons, custody services, deporting "failed" asylum seekers etc.

Asylum Seeker dispersal areas are typically in economically and socially deprived areas, and these parts of the country have rates of high unemployment, and low incomes: areas in South Wales, Birmingham, the North West, the North East and Glasgow. To top it all asylum seekers are often among the most economically and socially deprived people in these most deprived of areas. The interview tomorrow is being being transmitted across the North West, an area that has a disproportionate number of asylum seekers and in many parts of the region, some of the poorest citizens in the country. While the direct costs of Asylum Seekers dispersal are funded by the UKBA and not local council tax, there can of course be an impact on social-cohesion. It's a tricky subject to tackle. It is perhaps not a surprise that dispersal areas are not in areas like Knightsbridge, Hampstead, Chelsea and (excluding Labour London and a couple of notable exceptions) the South East of England. It's curious that areas which vote Tory and have the highest house prices growth are not areas designated for Asylum seekers dispersal. Make of that what you will.

I want to thank Graham Liver for talking with me this morning on BBC Radio Lancashire about the Calais Refugees. It's a difficult subject, a lot of emotion and strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Those people with low incomes and who rely on public services, are the ones most likely to have to shoulder the burden of government spending cuts. Is it no wonder then that people at the bottom of the pile, are going to feel threatened about the possible impact that large numbers of new arrivals, immigrants and refugees might have on jobs, social housing and public services. Even so, I have met and spoken with lots of British people, many from the North West who, while they might not have much money, are either collecting donations, or giving their time as volunteers, all to help people worse of than themselves: the men, women, boys and girls who have fled from countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Calais People to People Solidarity - Action from the UK

If you want to donate food, clothes, money or volunteer your time to help the men, women, boys and girls in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp, please join the Facebook group Calais - People to People Solidarity - Action from UK

Do you have some community news from around the Ormskirk area to share or a story to tell? Yes!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Refugees are "rats in human form" response to Ormskirk Volunteer in the Calais Jungle newspaper article

Thank you to the Southport Visitor Newspaper for the coverage of ten day volunteering during August in the Calais Refugee Camp.

Photo taken in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp

The article generated a number of responses in the comments section, most were favourable to the plight of the refugees.  Indeed the comments demonstrated that there are other people in the North West who support the refugees and are doing their own work to collect and distribute donations to the camp.

However, one person decided to respond altogether less favourably and called the refugees "rats in human form" and "filth".  In response, I wrote that I wondered if this chap suffered from a form of personality disorder, and while we should hate the actual comment, we should go easy on any poor soul who could utter such a vile thought. But on the other hand, it's perhaps dangerous to dismiss such comments as the raving of a mad man. If you replace "illegals", as he refers to the refugees, with "Jew", then we've been here before in Europe's not so distant past. The refugees in Calais are not rodents or a swarm, they are men, women, boys and girls, like each of us and they deserve our empathy and assistance.

Supporters of the refugees on the Facebook group Calais - People to People Solidarity - Action from UK took a different view to both the horrible comments and my response.  Leanne said "Can we please not equate mental health diagnoses with making hateful comments? Having a mental illness does not make a person racist!!!". Leanne is right of course, having a mental illness does not in general make someone a racist. I am not tarring all the people with a mental illness with the same brush. However, to refer to a group of people as "rats in human form" and "filth" is perhaps indicative of a sociopathic personality disorder.  On the other hand, my wife Heather said that perhaps the man is just horrible and horrible people say horrible things.

Andrew, from the organisation A Safe World For Women, said in reponse to the "rats in human form" comment "I would suggest this counts as incitement to racial hatred and most certainly hate speech".  Andrew has requested that Trinity Mirror Plc, which is the publisher of the Southport Visitor newspaper, ensures that the offensive comment is removed.

The majority of the comments to the article show once again that  despite the political differences regarding how the refugee crisis should be handled, many of us can still come together and agree that compassion for our brother and sisters trumps xenophobia.

Calais people to people - Solidarity - Action from the UK logo

If you want to donate food, clothes, money or volunteer your time to help the men, women, boys and girls in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp, please join the Facebook group Calais - People to People Solidarity - Action from UK

Do you have some community news from around the Ormskirk area to share or a story to tell? Yes!