This week in Dunkirk we have seen temperatures at night plummet to well below freezing. Living conditions for those sleeping rough are now deadly.
An open letter to my wonderful new friends in Chios, Greece.
Dear Omar, Ahmed, Hasib, Baby, Kaled, and everyone else I had the privilege of volunteering with, eating with, taking chai with, laughing with, being told off by Greek neighbours with, being friends with, in Chios over the past week. New friends and old. I don’t really have the words, but here goes....
For the people living in The Olive Grove we found hardly any toilets (port-a-loos), no showers, just three concrete sinks for all washing - selves, dishes and clothes. And, despite the great work of groups including refugees from Moria naming themselves The White Hearts, and volunteers from Refugee 4 Refugees regularly clearing rubbish, it was still inevitably piling up….
We’re now more than three years’ on... Three years since the global refugee crisis landed in Europe. Three years since the image of 4-year old Syrian, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach sent shock-waves around the world.
Volunteers on the Greek island of Lesvos are now being largely silenced by the authorities who don’t want the world to see and hear the devastating truth about conditions for people in Moria Refugee Camp. Because in three years things are arguably worse instead of better.
Three nights ago Alex had his birthday in a secret, tucked-away corner of a Parisian city park.
He is young in his round face. Has an easy sticky-out-toothy smile that reaches his soft eyes. He has one of those silly annoying hairstyles that is half flicky emo fringe and half super stylish. He's kinda goofy, charming and desperately talkative. His English is perfect but with unmistakable Afghan mannerisms.
We understand only too well how compelling it is to a donor to spend £10 on a packet of nappies for a vulnerable baby and mum. And how the opposite is true of a £10 donation towards a £1000 monthly van hire, or towards insurance, or worse still, tax! Hearts and minds grabbers they’re definitely not! But vehicles are often the one thing volunteer groups can’t live without.
For two years, since the Calais “jungle” camp was demolished in October 2016, the French authorities have inflicted the same heinous actions time and time again on the refugees who have found their way to northern France. Heavy-handed, intimidating evictions, destruction of tents, encampments, and personal belongings and police force, tear gas and brutality. Time and again it’s not worked, and yet still they keep going.