So the Great British public have taken it upon themselves to do what David Cameron and the government should be doing; providing aid to refugees from war-torn countries. People are asking questions and looking for answers via social media, so here are a few answers I've picked up whilst running my own campaign from Hull. (The Calais Care Campaign for anyone from the Hull area who is interested in donating or volunteering!)
1) What can you do from home?
Donate to an organisation or group already set up in your area. Most will be found via social media. Calais need tents, winter clothing mainly for men and practical things like camping stoves, non perishable food, toiletries. Labelled boxes or individual food parcels seem to be most effective. There are also protests and marches being arranged all over the country - again, social media is definitely the place to find out the details!
2) Where to find answers - If you're going somewhere in Europe to deliver aid or donations the general consensus is to travel in groups or convoys as big as possible. The people in the camps are on one meal a day and desperate. The black market is thriving so try to contact someone over at the camp before you just turn up with a load of donations. The group 'Calais - People To People Solidarity - Action From a The UK' on Facebook has all the answers you could need. Have a look at older posts before you ask questions. The chances are, your question will have already been asked.
3) Other options - Calais isn't the be all and end all. They've been inundated (gratefully) with donations - still needing volunteers on the ground though, again, look at the above Facebook Group - but there are camps that haven't been inundated, Dunkirk for example or if you're willing to go further afield, aid is needed in places like Hungary and Greece.
4) Drop offs - If you're doing a drop off. No pork for religious and cultural reasons. Eid is coming up so any Muslims from the UK sending messages would be a nice, personal touch (perhaps in Arabic if possible) No tatty clothes, no dirty clothes - keep it respectful. These people ARE desperate, but self respect and dignity is still important to everyone involved. No toys or women's clothes to Calais but there is a women's camp nearby called Jules Ferry, but they're inundated too so unless people are going to help on the ground, it sounds like a better option to donate the women's and children's clothes to local charities in the UK who deal with refugees who are arriving in your home town or city.
5) Trolls and statistics - The best way, as we all know, is to ignore these people! However, the answers to a few FAQs/Frequent arguments;
• 'Why didn't the family of the little boy who drowned on the beach, stay in Turkey?' A - Many people have said that because the family were from Kurdistan, the war meant they were not safe there either. Others have suggested that if this happened to you, you'd simply want to get as far away from the fighting as possible - makes sense to me! I'm sure there's a million and one reasons, a parent wouldn't risk the lives of their children for no good reason.
• 'We're too full/the UK can't take any more people in, or, we're being taken over.' A - Wrong. Germany has taken 40,000 refugees in so far. Yes, we're a tiny island compared to them so here's a few more statistics to put both of these comments into context
- The population of the UK is 61, 643, 599 and the refugee population in the UK is 193.510
- Pakistan have taken in 2.6 million refugees, Jordan have taken 2.4 million and Lebanon 1.1 million. They're NOT all coming to the UK.
- 98% of the UK is 'natural' meaning we're actually only using 2% of the country.
• 'I don't agree with it.' Well first of all, people have said this to me and I've thought well, that's a pretty sweeping statement. What don't you agree with? Bombing innocent people? Well that we can agree on. Taking refugees into our country? Or just general charitable giving? Once this is established and you've worked out whether the person in question has a valid argument or is just a total twat, then proceed from there with explaining - very carefully, mind - that people's houses, families, pets, careers and countries have been destroyed or killed and they're currently living in refugee camps in the freezing cold, being flooded regularly and surviving on one meal a day. If that doesn't work, leave them to their opinion and their ignorance.
6) Social Media - If you can't donate financially, have nothing to donate to take to the camps and can't afford to offer a bedroom in a house but still support the cause, then use social media. Show your solidarity by joining Facebook groups, following and using the hash tag #RefugeesWelcome and perhaps volunteering some of your time to local charities who help refugees in your local area. Just whatever you do, don't get TOO stressed out over arguments with right wing trolls!
I hope this helps! Keep up the compassion, fellow Brits!