(2023) The article below is now historical but a useful reminder. The “migrant crisis” has moved on somewhat and much closer to our shores. Currently we are supporting a condiderable number of migrants through food parcels to Reading Refugee Support Group. As stated below we endeavour to be apolitical and the situation with migrants is complicated and varied. RRSG page on Asylum seekers.
Our hearts go out to genuine asylum seekers who have been “housed” in hotels for months without any processing of their status. We hear of and have met families who have genuinely fled persecution, from Iran, Syria and Afghanistan, and deserve better. We acknowledge the local churches who have opened their doors in various ways in friendship and hospitality. However, sometimes people are arbitrarily moved to a new town and any friendships they have made or roots they have put down are trashed.
We have been providing specifically “Ukrainian” parcels over the past year. All of this of course puts added strain on our food supplies.
The Refugee Crisis and Calais –
ReadiFood had a couple of volunteers who regularly visited Calais and were able to give us “on the ground” reports. As a charity we try to remain apolitical and of course have no way of affecting French policy at any level, but the situation both in Calais and Dunkirk did raise concern for anyone with compassion and a sense of common humanity.
April 2017 – Calais There were still hundreds of minors sleeping rough in Calais. The local police confiscated any personal possessions including tents, so sleeping out is the only option. The mainstream media seem reluctant to carry any stories for whatever reason. The Mayor of Calais banned food distribution. But Charities are carrying on anyway. There are accusations of Police brutality.
April 2017 – Dunkerque
There was a massive fire in the camp at Dunkirk in April. Hundreds of refugees who had been living in the Dunkirk refugee camp are said to be unaccounted for, including several groups of unaccompanied minors, after a fire ravaged the encampment in northern France. Charities have warned that while most refugees in the camp are now in three local gymnasiums under the orders of the local authority, several hundred have left the Dunkirk area and are thought to have made their way to Calais.
As many as 1,600 refugees were in the camp when the blaze broke out.
March 2017 – FCG are in regular conversation with Reading Refugee Support Group and Reading Borough Council and others around the subject of Refugees and Asylum seekers. As Christians we firmly believe in the obligation that we have to care for any and every human being not least those who are fleeing from genuine abuse or persecution. It does however seem as though people are returning to create a new “jungle” (Feb 2017)
October 2016 – With the “closure” of “the Jungle” the following may be of historic interest only. However we do have eyes on the ground and will continue to support real need where we become aware of it.
August 2016 – We pass on the following simply as information. No bias is intended in this very difficult situation. There are “currently” still 7,000 people living in “The Jungle” at Calais and 700 near Dunkerque. Most are English speaking, thus their desire to get to the U K. Some have family here. Most are young men. As the weeks and months pass their frustration is becoming greater, leading to resentment and anger, spilling over into violence. The local authorities are trying to contain the situation. Confrontations are becoming more serious. Tear gas is regularly used. Food, clothing and other supplies are low. The initial enthusiasm to help has waned. Hunger is a problem.
We are regularly supplying certain food types to a volunteer who passes it to a charity working in Calais. It is a blessing that we can pass on surplus donated food, particularly pulses and large bags of rice, that are actually not of great use to us in Reading. Thus what risked being wasted has become useful.
If you would like to donate specifically to the Refugees, please bring large bags of rice and tins / packets of lentils at tell us that this is what it is for. We will pass it on at no cost to ReadiFood. Also we can pass on small adult male clothing and sleeping bags.
September 2015 – ReadiFood began working with Reading Borough Council and Reading Refugee Support Group to find the most appropriate ways of responding to the immediate and continue working when they were at risked of having to shut down. term implications of the current situation. We are committed to doing all that we can to help those fleeing from danger and persecution. In 2016 we were able to help ensure that even in cash strapped times Reading Refugee Support Group have been able to continue operating when they were in danger of having to close down.
There are implications short term for food and clothing, toiletries and of course shelter.
Medium to long term the challenge will be to house any refugees coming to Reading in a climate where we already have a housing shortage and a good number of local people are being housed in Bed and Breakfast accommodation as far away as Slough.
Our perception is that the situation in Calais is fluid. There was an initial massive response country wide. Logistically and environmentally it does not make sense to transport food and clothing over long distances and there is a danger that the response is emotional rather than truly helpful. The CALAID website is asking that people do not go to CALAIS and that they are inundated with donations. Click their link.
HOW THEN CAN I HELP?
We are suggesting for the moment that you donate money to the various agencies involved in helping refugees, such as the Red Cross.
CALAID Red CRoss Reading Refugee Support GroupRRSG
We will however monitor the situation.
Our primary concern is to prepare for the longer term to ensure that all that is possible is done to welcome and settle those who come to Reading.
And just in case the thought of a few thousand Syrians coming to the U K worries you, read this:_
Also of interest http://www.premieryouthwork.com/Read/Features/Why-we-went-to-Calais