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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
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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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Films For Action is a library for people who want to change the world.

 

Our mission is to provide citizens with the knowledge and perspectives essential to creating a more beautiful, just, sustainable, and democratic society.

Films For Action was founded in 2006 by a few friends in Lawrence, Kansas, after realizing how essential healthy media is to a healthy democracy.

Over the last 15 years, we've reviewed and curated over 1,000 free documentaries and 4,000 short films, plus over 150 pay-per-view documentaries, spanning 34 topics related to changing the world.

During this time we've been able to reach tens of millions of people - not by owning a TV network or spending truckloads of cash on advertising, but because millions of awesome people keep sharing 'films for action' with their friends on social media - in particular, our 850,000 supporters on Facebook and 70,000 site members. 

One of the coolest things is, thanks to our patrons, our library is ad-free and 100% supported by member donations, while 99% of our library is free to access and always will be. The pay-per-view films on our site, of course, help support the filmmakers, and 90-100% of the revenue for PPV films hosted by us goes to the filmmakers. 

To thank our $5/mo patrons, we partner with filmmakers and distributors to provide free access to a growing number of films that are normally pay-per-view. With just 20 highly curated films at the moment, it's basically a very, very tiny Netflix for world changers, but its main function is to support the library as a whole.

If you'd like to know more, want to help out, or you're a filmmaker looking to collaborate, feel free to get in touch!

Cheers,  Tim Hjersted