10 September 2016
The Refugee Crisis had actually lodged in my brain properly back in early April 2015 when I saw a really nasty quote on FB from the gutter press, about how ‘the people coming from war torn Syria should stay in their country to fight and not bring their terrorism here to our shores’, and some local people here in Guernsey leapt on it and starting spouting bile - I was shocked at what they were saying and decided to do some research - the more I discovered, the more immersed I became in the whole story, the more indignant I became about the awful words that jumped at me from the screen. I have never been an avid follower of world news just listening on the side lines, but something in this really resonated - was it the cruelty and distain that the Refugees seem to being treated with? was it just the sheer injustice of people unable to access what was clearly their human right to be heard? Was it the increasing stories of violence? Was it the way the authorities were physically treating the people on the borders of countries? Or was it the stories of hundreds of unaccompanied children?
I actually think it was a combination - however the physical violence really disturbed me and my protective instinct came rushing to the surface - I have NEVER liked violence in any form be it in real time - films or stories, and the thought of children out in the open, unprotected, made me sick to my stomach. The seed of the need to help had been planted and it grew very quickly.
Very soon afterwards on the 25th April the Nepalese earthquake slammed into Nepal and all thoughts of action for the Refugees were put on hold. I took a team out there and we did what we could.
I came back and was doing more research into manipulated media reports and becoming increasingly angry, frustrated and frankly horrified at the lack of compassion from my fellow man.
On the 27th August, after seeing the reports of the people dying in the truck in Austria, I was moved into action - it was of course JUST before the tragic death of Alan Kurdi on the 2nd Sept and the images of his little lifeless body was on the seashore on a beach so close to us in reality. I went on a scheduled trip to Nepal and during that time planned a trip to go and see for myself what was happening in Calais.
I met with our Chief Minister in Guernsey to ask if I and others could take in refugees to our homes - after consultation the answer - much to my deep disappointment came back as a no!
I took another volunteer and on the 30th October we drove to Calais and spent 2 days listening to stories of extreme hardship and witnessed for ourselves the reality of life in The Jungle. Just 7 days later, I took an incredible team of 21 to Calais, including a team of 6 from Cuatro Estaciones Fundación Samu, to build a community kitchen that is there to this day serving 1500 meals each day,and run a medical clinic on the camp. I as Bridge2, spent Christmas in The Jungle with Jack James and Sam James my sons, together with Bruford Low, Adrianjohn Clarke Ana Rickard and Louise Woetmann we built a fence and added more to the kitchen.
I went back again in Feb with Toby Boucher and Louise Woetmann and Sam did another solo trip. Over the course of 5 months we also funded shelters for 30 families, bought large quantities of food, firewood, gas supplies, and donated 11 van loads of aid all generously given by the community at large here in Guernsey.
There has been an anti faction all the time, but they have been very outnumbered by the massive support of the people who care about how people are treated - thankfully!
During the November trip I took a detour to Paris, at the request of Christine Dolan and witnessed the extreme hardship of Refugees living on the streets in Place de Rebublique there, with little support. We were called to bring a medical team from Cuatro Estaciones Fundación Samu to treat some people who were really unwell and receiving little help at all from the Parisian people. I have just been again with my friend Rando Wagner for 2 days to give support tea biscuits bananas and bread out to the 1,000+ people still on the pavements with little support and being exposed to the daily derision and hatred from locals - it is devastating to witness. I stood making tea as a chic lady strutted passed and actually spat at a woman holding a baby sitting on the pavement, and bore witness to the aftermath when a Parisian punched a man waiting in the queue for a cup of tea. I had thought there was nothing left that could shock me, after all I had been working amongst death in my Disaster relief work for 12 years - BUT the attitude of the local Parisians was TRULY staggering - it took my breath away - dreadful!
I sought a meeting at the British Embassy in Paris to speak with the Ambassador but he was on holiday - so at very short notice instead I was granted a meeting (it lasted nigh on 2 hours) with David Reed the 1st Secretary for Migration who is directly involved with all things Refugee related including Calais and Dunkirk, and he was visibly shocked when I related the violent incidences involving the CRS I had witnessed and the reality of life on the Parisian streets just 15 mins from his luxurious office, in the building his office sits in, representing our Queen and country.
Since April of this year I have been working partnering with Refugee Support, set up by Paul Hutchings and John Sloan, in a camp based in a disused military base in Greece trying to make things a little easier for the residents while they wait for other people to decide on their futures! Existence on camp is really hard for the families - the reality of having left your home in a blind panic and run for your lives, survived a dangerous sea crossing, and then to be bundled into a place that is basically a space with ruined buildings around, must be like a living hell.
I go to and fro from Guernsey, and have spent well over half the time since April travelling to and working in Greece - I see it as my duty and basically because I feel guilty for seeming to condone this behaviour!
We have to help, they are our brothers and sisters.
Help Refugees recently started a campaign called Refugenes based around the fact that most of us most likely are - or are related to, or are descended from, refugees at some point in our personal history. I embrace the fact I am related to people from all around the world completely.
Scrolling forward to right now - my frustration is bigger than ever - nothing seems to have moved - yes a few people have been sent to other countries - yes a few children have made it to the uk.... BUT where is proper efficient system to process people with SPEED ....where is the urgency? I will tell you where......tied up in the knots of RED TAPE - thats where!
It is pathetic....
PATHETIC TO SEE THE MOTHER SITTING ON A PAVEMENT ‘in a rich city’,WITH HER NEW BABY - WITH NOWHERE SAFE TO STAY IN 2016!
It is pathetic to see the men so thin, so hungry, their faces are shrunken and hollowed out
It is pathetic to hear someone say PLEASE can I have another sugar in my tea - and to know that is because he is SO HUNGRY!
....and where is this? PARIS - ATHENS - THESSALONIKI - and many other places too - today - right now - its happening!
We are in a 1st world country for God’s sake - just HOW is this all ok?
There is talk and then there is evidence.....there is inaction and then MORE talk.....
What DOES it take to mobilise action to stop the bombs - stop the pain - stop the cruelty?
What DOES it take to make people who are the decision makers understand that their choices to bomb and send in troops and then their inaction on the ground in Europe is causing intolerable human misery and suffering on an EPIC scale?
Does it take petitions?
Does it take laws passed in the Lord’s that get ignored (The Lord Dub’s report)
How many people have to ACTUALLY die before someone SOMEWHERE says...... enough and takes ACTION? “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr Seuss
Because in April of this year the death total stood at hundreds of thousands - and how many innocent adults and children in that number are not involved in the war? How many farmers, students, teachers, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunties, nurses and Doctors, firefighters and peace keepers - and how many children and little defenceless babies?
How many? neither you or I will ever know the TRUE terrible total.
There is talk.......
talk of a new wall being built near the port of Calais
talk of chlorine attacks in Aleppo
talk of The Jungle being dismantled totally soon
talk of a new Refugee camp or 2 being built in Paris
talk of 10,000 unaccompanied minors going missing in the EU
talk of deals being done at Government level
talk of reunification
talk of rehoming
talk of the vulnerable being looked after
talk of Syrians going back to Jarablus in Syria
talk of abuse in camps
talk of container homes
talk of the winter coming..... talk of the rain we are to expect ......much more talk not even mentioned here ........talk talk talk...blah blah blah blah.....
Then there is evidence.....
of demonstrations by truck drivers in Calais
of abuse in camps in Greece
from barrel bombs in Syria
of inaction over unaccompanied minors
of amazing work done by White Helmets in Syria
of over 3,000 refugees dying at sea trying to get to safety
of men women and babies sleeping on the streets of Paris
of men woman and babies sleeping on the streets of Greece
of the Government’s inaction
of the CRS turning a ‘blind’ eye to their own, committing terrible acts of violence
of babies being born and placed in totally unacceptable camps to live
of the terrible food that is served to Refugees
of depression and demoralisation
the evidence is there for all to see and the talk - well, most of it, is just that, TALK, much of it hot air with no substance.
Empty rherotic that goes around and around.....
What happened to Love they neighbour?
What HAVE we become?
In the words of the Black Eyed Peas ...................Where is the love?
please please STOP the bombs - STOP the injustice - STOP the cruelty and START to help, be kind, compassionate, considerate, just HELP in what ever way you can.
www.bridge2.gg if you can donate. Thank you
Can I make it clearer?
Is anyone listening
Sarah Griffith MBE Founder of Bridge2 - Sat 10th September 2016