5 Things You Can Do to Help Refugees Right Now
Do you despair when people fleeing war, poverty and disasters are met with hostility or indifference? Fed up with the dispassionate and downright inhumane response from governments and the media? You're not alone. Citizens of many countries are taking direct action to help those most in need. Here's how you can get involved.
By Andrew Butler / filmsforaction.org
Sep 2, 2015

Support the Migrant Offshore Aid Station

Last year the EU cut its Mediterranean search and rescue budget by two-thirds. This year the death toll of those trying to cross the Med is three times higher than last year. Migrant Offshore Aid Station is a privately-funded search and rescue operation which has saved thousands of lives. They have now joined forces with Médecines Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) to further increase their effectiveness. Watch the video below to see them in action and please help by making a donation to support their work.

 

Offer a Place to Stay

Refugees Welcome has been described as “Airbnb for refugees”. Founded in Germany the online service seeks to put people who have room in their home in touch with a refugee needing somewhere to stay. Working with established refugee organisations, the group will help you fundraise to cover rent if need be, as well as provide continuing support to the homeowner and their guests. Hundreds of people have already signed up. Refugees Welcome currently offer the service in Germany and Austria but are encouraging people to replicate it in other countries. Visit their website to sign-up, learn more or get help with starting a Refugees Welcome site where you live.

 

Feed People

From Food Not Bombs in Budapest distributing healthy food made from ingredients donated by the city's food markets, to the Turkish couple who used their wedding celebration to feed 4,000 Syrian refugees (see video below). Food is something we can all help with. Search online to see if there is already a group in your area providing food to those in need. If not, perhaps consider starting one.

 

Help People Cross Borders

Another excellent German initiative, Flucht­helfer (named after those who helped get people across the wall from East to West Berlin) encourages and offers advice to those willing to help people get across Europe, crossing borders they might otherwise struggle to get through. Amongst the excellent advice on offer, they suggest; help one person at a time, who should be seated in the back, and take along a front seat passenger. No money should change hands (to avoid being prosecuted for trafficking) - to be extra careful take as little cash as possible, use cards to pay for fuel. Unlike those who helped people during the cold war, the advice is that those helping today are unlikely to face prosecution and at most might receive a fine.

 

Take Direct Action to Prevent the Forced Removal of Refugees

Even after reaching a country of safety, refugees are subjected to a dehumanising process whereby they are compelled to justify their very existence, undergoing the long and arduous process of getting the right to remain in their chosen home. If they do not meet the criteria (which is often a check-box exercise that fails to take into account the nuances of people's specific circumstances) then they face the threat of deportation, back to a situation where their lives may be in danger. There is now a growing network of community-based organisations that act to keep people safe and in their chosen community. The Anti Raids Network provide legal information to inform people of their rights, alerts when border agency raids look imminent, and mass mobilisation of communities to actively resist raids when they happen. The #StopCharterFlights  campaign aims to intervene to halt mass deportations of people on aircraft chartered by the government. In March 2017 the group successfully took direct action to prevent a charter flight from leaving Stansted Airport in London by locking themselves to a tripod behind the plane. You can read more about that action, the motivations behind it, and the outcome here

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Photographs by Gideon Mendel - Interviews by Alessandra Bonomolo
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5 Things You Can Do to Help Refugees Right Now