Thursday, September 03, 2015

'No one was talking about the benefits system in the UK' - Brits help out amid the chaos and squalor of Calais

British mercy-mission volunteers battling to help out in squalor-ridden refugee camps have condemned the Calais ‘chaos’ left too untended by European leaders.
Refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Iran were helped by a makeshift group of helpers prompted to cross the Channel after being moved by the migrants’ plight.
But the trip organiser told Metro he was shocked not only by the abject conditions faced by the 5,000 stranded in Calais but also the lack of organisation among those trying to assist.

Jamie Cutteridge, from Wandsworth in south-west London, organised the ad hoc visit, appealing on Facebook and Twitter for supplies.
He and a group of friends managed to cram five cars with donations including food, tents, clothes and sanitary products.
They found a dispiriting lack of organisation on the ground - yet widespread awareness among migrants that David Cameron had described them as ‘a swarm’.
Mr Cutteridge told Metro: ‘We’ve received a lot of support from people frustrated by the situation and frustrated how this has been seen too much as a political crisis rather than a humanitarian crisis.
‘It’s amazing how many people in the camp were aware of that “swarm” comment and tried to say they were anything but.
‘We too want to see them as people worth caring for.’
One of the main base-points was a makeshift church managed by two middle-aged volunteers, storing supplies but lacking much help to distribute them.
Tickets are handed out to camp residents, to be exchanged for donations, but Mr Cuttridge found fellow helpers were few and far between.
He said: ‘I was struck less than the physical needs of people than by the lack of logistics.’
He added: ‘It was a long day, setting off at 4am and getting back at midnight - and it felt very strange.
‘The camp feels so temporary, everything is ramshackle.
‘In some ways it looks like the last day of Glastonbury rather than somewhere people actually live, with people aiming to stay there only one or two nights only to find themselves stuck there.’
He befriended one Ethiopian giving the name David who arrived three months ago and tried every night to sneak his way through the Eurotunnel.
‘He was giving himself a night off ahead of the next attempt, when another 400 or 500 would be attempting the same,’
‘Too much of the response has been seeing this as a political crisis rather than a humanitarian crisis.'
Another grateful recipient was Mustapha, who had never been to England but spoke with a ‘broad Brummie accent’ after being visited by Midlands-based relatives.
Mr Cutteridge said: ‘No one was talking about the benefits system in the UK - they just want to get a job, and support family back home or be with family over here.
‘People have been very generous, as have plenty in Calais, but I’m now trying to think how might be the best way to support them logistically next time.

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