How you can help refugees if you can’t make it to Calais
There have been 1,000 new arrivals to camps this month alone
Since 2001, the 20th June has marked World Refugee Day. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are currently 59.5 million displaced people worldwide. Due to government restrictions and after the demolition of half the Jungle in March, there are now nearly 6,000 people living in Calais (almost the same amount as when it was double the size).
Due to seasonal weather, the numbers are growing and more and more people are making their way to Calais and Dunkirk – there have been 1000 new arrivals this month. Tensions and conflict are also rising amongst the different groups; as a result a recent fire burned down 3,500m², in which people lost their homes, clothes, papers as well as kitchens and shelters.
“When fires happen in the Jungle, it’s like we are burning in Hell. They happen quite often as people use candles as they can’t afford gas to keep warm” – Taken by Habibi, 24 as part of ‘Welcome To Our Jungle‘
The French government has been accused of starving the refugees to death, regularly failing to feed and shelter people unless forced to by the NGOs working there. One of these, Calais Action, have said that the public thinks that the camp has been removed and that thousands have been given new homes, which has had a devastating effect on the amount of donations and volunteers, which are needed more than ever. Here is what you can do to help.
Read around mainstream news
Keep updated on the situation by reading the news, but remember these can be biased so try read around them. For example, most people know about Calais and the Jungle because of the huge amount of coverage it has had, but not so much about Dunkirk, where aid is also needed. Here are a few important ones:
Calaidipedia is a go-to resource for people involved in the grass roots movement supporting refugees in Calais and beyond. It has a pretty good overview of the current situation and is regularly updated.
The Frontier is a new refugee media platform launching tomorrow (21st June) with all content written, filmed and created by refugees to hear their voices and stories, from their point of view. Sign up on their website.
Welcome To Our Jungle is a participatory photography project based in the Jungle which like The Frontier, provides a platform for the voices of those directly affected by the crisis. Working with men, woman and children, their aim is to show the perspective of those who are at the centre of this crisis “in an attempt to provide a counter narrative to the predominantly negative and unbalanced rhetoric, broadcast in the mainstream media”.
There are also many different facebook solidarity groups, which can be overwhelming but they are worth looking it as they connect organizations, volunteers and refugees and people are very helpful in answering any questions or concerns you may have. People to People Solidarity is one of the main ones and here is a list with an overview of all the groups.
Donate. But research before you do
Again, Calaispedia has a list of various charities both in Calais and Dunkirk, so you can chose a charity as well as a specific project (all the way from community kitchens to youth education projects and healing and art spaces) and know exactly where your money is going. A few charities doing amazing work, among many others are:
Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
You can also email [email protected] for help and advice.
Donate money towards phone credit for displaced refugees
Many people get separated from their families, friends and loved ones as they try make their way into Europe. Donating money for phone credit is a really easy but important way you can help them find each other.
Check what is needed before you donate items
You would be surprised how many items are donated that aren’t needed or used. Instead of assuming people need one thing more than another, there are several websites which are regularly updated with priority lists such as Care4Calais, Help refugees and Leisure Fayre. You can also purchase a specific item needed for a refugee from Care4Calais’s wish list. After the recent fire and with rising numbers of people, warehouse supplies are running very low.
“Everyone is thinking, ‘Jungle is finished. Where will we go now?’” – Taken by Sultana, 11 as part of ‘Welcome To Our Jungle’
This starter pack answers most queries about donations – from clothes to toiletries and food. Some key points are:
Clothes need to be good quality (you would wear them) without rips/stains/broken fastenings
When you send it, pack it in boxes of one item type only
Shoes need to be very good quality, with their laces and paired together with rubber bands (not brown packing tape which can damage them)
All underwear needs to be new
Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer
This is a pretty obvious one, but there aren’t nearly enough volunteers at the moment and the work they are doing is vital for the safety, health and well being (both physical and mental) of the refugees. Solidarity groups working there ask you stay at least a week, so if you can spare just 7 days, go help out.
People in the camps are some of the most kind, clever and amazing people you will ever meet. You will not only provide vital support, but also learn and gain a lot back from them. If you are interested in volunteering but not sure where to start, read about peoples’ experiences and if you need advice, email [email protected] – this is the central coordinating email. Or you can register directly here.
Redruk are an NGO that offer free training in basic humanitarian aid and logistics (focusing on distributions) to small organisations as well as individuals working in Calais. Find out about upcoming training courses.
This map created by a volunteer has a full list of possible accommodation around Calais, but here are a few recommended places to get you started:
Calais Youth Hostel (from 22.70€/night)
F1 (from £21/night)
Premier class hotel (from 29€/night)
Pacific hotel (from £23/night)
Les Palominos is a campsite near the jungle (3 person caravans from 60€/night)
Helping from the UK
Right to Remain supports people to establish their right to remain with dignity, They also provide courses on how to support new arrivals through the asylum seeking process.
You can volunteer to help charities sort through donations before they get sent of to the camps – Calaid is one of these, based in the UK.
Help from the comfort of your laptop or smartphone. Refugee Buddy Network is an amazing group which connects refugees with people around the world who offer friendship, direct aid and support. Get involved!
“My dream for the future is that I am in a good country, a safe place, and I go to school and have luck” – Taken by Sitara, 9, from Afghanistan as part of ‘Welcome To Our Jungle’