Friday, 16 September 2016

Volunteering with Help Refugees

I recently returned from a two week trip to Calais where I spent my time volunteering with Help Refugees. If you read my last post you'll remember that I was running a donation drive in Brighton to take food donations to Calais in my van and it was a huge success, so many people brought generous donations along to both Punktured and The Hope and Ruin, and Infinity Foods gave me a generous donation of dried and canned goods. As well as filling the van with lentils, tinned tomatoes, biscuits, rice, sugar, tea, and more I was also able to raise £1050 which covered a weeks worth of fresh food for Refugee Community Kitchen who currently feed over 2000 people a day.

The refugee crisis in Calais is actually worse than I understood it to be before I went over there, the most surprising thing to me was finding out that it's not an officially recognised refugee camp. There are no large aid agencies like Oxfam or Amnesty there on the ground distributing aid in fact the only organisations working in the jungle are small grassroots groups like Help Refugees. There are over 10,000 people living in the camp and numbers are growing every day, the majority or refugees come from Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan and Eritrea. These are people who risk (and often loose) their lives trying to get to the UK to claim asylum. Despite the Dubs amendment passing in May no unaccompanied refugee children have been settled in the UK under the new law. Just let that sink in for a moment. Over four months ago the UK government agreed that we need to resettle unaccompanied refugee children but since then we have done nothing about it. Nothing. The mental and physical health of vulnerable children (children as young as eight) is declining every day and we're over here planning to build a £1.7m wall to keep people away?! It's appalling.