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
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. This year they have teamed up with Médecines Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) to further increase their effectiveness. Watch the video below to see them in action and please help them by donating what you can.
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.
From Food Not Bombs in Budapest distributing warm 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.
Support People in the “Jungles” of Calais
Many people trying to reach friends, family and people speaking a common language in the UK, get stuck in the French port of Calais where they end up in informal camps called “jungles”. Conditions there are tough and supplies and support are desperately needed. If traveling from the UK look out for deals on ferry crossings (ironically the Daily Mail often have offers for cheap travel to Calais). Wherever you’re coming from, load up a vehicle with supplies and go and give some direct assistance to those in need. Amongst the items requested are:
Tents, tarps, sleeping bags; clothes especially warm jackets and waterproofs; bikes, bike trailers and bike repair stuff; pots, pans, utensils, plates, cups and cutlery; First Aid supplies; books, dictionaries, texts, zines etc – in any and all languages; games and music making, including card games, board games, footballs, basketballs, and any instruments etc; tools; phones, phone chargers and sim cards; digital cameras, useful when documenting encounters with the authorities; and...
YOU, spend time getting to know people, hear their stories, give support and solidarity without judgement. See Calais Migrant Solidarity or London2Calais for more info.