Refugee Crisis

Archbishop Justin Welby has stated that the situation being faced now is a ‘complex and wicked crisis that underlines our human frailty and the fragility of our political systems.’ Here are 5 ways we as Christians can respond to the continuing crisis.

1. Act
Archbishop Justin has said that: “The Church has always been a place of sanctuary for those in need, and Churches in the UK and across Europe have been meeting the need they are presented with. I reaffirm our commitment to the principle of sanctuary for those who require our help and love.” It is a call to churches to act and be prepared to respond to those in need from other nations in our midst. So what can practical support can you give?

DONATE – HUMANITARIAN AID
There are a number of groups and individuals who are trying to serve migrants and refugees in Calais. If you would like to offer humanitarian support please always make sure you contact the group first before you start collecting to check they are currently accepting donations, when their next scheduled delivery date is, or check their wish-list to make sure you are collecting the items most needed (women’s and children’s item are generally not needed).

Please also be aware that many of these grassroots organisations are run by volunteers and ordinary people doing this work around their regular jobs, and so they will deal with your enquiry as best, and as quickly, as they can.

Calais Solidarity Action From UK (Calais People to People) - This group is organising aid from the UK to those stranded in Calais. They have links to local groups across the country. It is largely active on Facebook and is very up-to-date in terms of the conversations grassroots groups are having about how people can help: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CalaisMigrantSolidarityActionFromUK/

CalAid: CalAid supports displaced people in Calais refugee camps. They are London based, but are well worth contacting as they need financial and volunteering support as well as taking donations. Website: http://calaid.co.uk/ On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JoinCalAid?fref=ts

Seeking Sanctuary – A local Kent Christian group providing on the ground support and aid to migrants in Calais. They are currently full and cannot accept any more clothing donations, however they are keen that people keep checking their website for updates: http://seekingsanctuary.weebly.com/

DONATE - FUNDS:
Many groups on the ground in Calais are currently being overwhelmed by the generosity of the public. As many people also look beyond Calais to the wider situation in Europe, where it is perhaps harder to physically send humanitarian aid, monetary support is vital.

Doctors of the World: Doctors of the World UK is part of the global Médecins du Monde network, which delivers over 300 projects in more than 70 countries through 3,000 volunteers. They are working in Calais to provide medical care for those living in the continually poor conditions of the jungle. They have set up an appeal for donations to help support their work. £5 could pay for bandages, £20 a course of antibiotics: http://doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/pages/calais-appeal

Seeking Sanctuary via Caritas Social Action Network – CSAN is the social action arm of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. If you indicate on your donation form that your gift is ‘For Calais’ it will be directed to groups working in those areas. These included Seeking Sanctuary who can access the fund to purchase items directly themselves. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?

Crowdfunding projects - The refugee and migrant crisis is a fast moving situation and particularly online, the public are developing interesting and individual initiatives all the time. Many of these have justgiving pages or are encouraging crowdfunding to get them off the ground. Tap into the forums listed above to keep across such initiatives or visit this JustGiving compiled list: http://about.justgiving.com/content/calais-migrant-crisis

Tearfund: The Tearfund Refugee Fund has been set up to support their vital work in Europe as well as helping some of the millions who are displaced or refugees within the Middle East itself: http://www.tearfund.org/en/refugeecrisis/

Save the Children – An appeal directly to support refugee children across Europe and in the countries they are fleeing from to provide aid and support: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/emergencies/child-refugee-crisis-appeal

Migrant Offshore Aid Station: MOAS is a registered Foundation based in Malta. It is dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing assistance to migrants who find themselves in distress while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels: http://www.moas.eu/

United Nations Refugee Agency – official fundraising campaign for the UNHCR: http://donate.unhcr.org/gbr/europe-crisis?

2. SERVE
Some organisations, particularly some long-term projects would welcome volunteers to help support their services to refugees and migrants. Some may also feel called to offer a place in their home to a refugee or failed asylum seeker.

Kent Refugee Help: Kent Refugee Help (KRH) is a small charity supporting immigration detainees held in Dover Immigration Removal Centre (DIRC) and in Her Majesty's Prisons (HMP) Wormwood Scrubs, Pentonville, Wandsworth and Elmley. They need support through financial donations but also through volunteers willing to befriend, support and potentially act as surety for those detained in Kent and London. They also want people who can use their skills to help develop the work of Kent Refugee Help: http://www.kentrefugeehelp.org.uk/home.html

Kent Refugee Action Network: An independent charity that provides help and support to asylum seekers and refugees, including minors who have arrived in the United Kingdom unaccompanied by an adult. There are befriending, support and class room assistant opportunities: http://kran.org.uk/vacancies-2/volunteer/

Could you provide a home? Home for good is coordinating those who want to provide a home for unaccompanied minor refugee/asylum seeker via fostering for a few days in an emergency, short term or long term: http://www.homeforgood.org.uk/respond/

The No Accommodation Network – this organisation, which is an informal network of agencies providing accommodation for migrants who have no recourse to public funds, is looking to widen its reach. They deal mainly with asylum seekers whose asylum claims have been rejected, but for a variety of reasons have not been deported: http://naccom.org.uk/agencies/south-east/

3. CAMPAIGN AND ADVOCATE
Campaigning, signing petitions, writing to your MP, working with activist groups are all powerful ways to give a voice to migrants and refugees and to stand alongside them. There are also a series of events coming up which you can attend:

Refugees Welcome – Solidarity March, 12th September, 12pm to 2pm (Marble Arch). On September 14 2015, Theresa May will be attending a meeting of the EU's 28 member states for emergency talks on Europe’s escalating refugee crisis. The organisers have said the march is to give Ms May, ‘the conviction that the British people that she represents are open to helping refugees’ : http://www.amnesty.org.uk/events/solidarity-refugees#.Ve83xxFViko

Refugees Welcome –Solidarity March, 19th September, 12pm to 2pm Jules Ferry Centre (Jungle) Calais.

Migrants Rights – Organisation bringing together migrant activists and support organizations, think tanks, academics, faith groups and public sector representatives to advocate for a rights-based approach towards migration in the UK: http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/about

Petitions – a number of parliamentary petitions have been opened with reference to the refugee crisis. If a petition receives 10,000 signatures the Government will respond to it, 100,000 and it will be considered for debate in parliament. Here is a link to all petitions currently available to sign: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=refugees&state=open&commit=Search

4. GET INFORMED
Archbishop Justin recently said that: “As Christians we believe we are called to break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today.” It is important therefore to educate oneself in the facts and arguments in order to be able to help break down those barriers, and respond to the concerns others may have in the community regarding migrants and refugees.

Official statistics: The United Nations Refugee Agency has amassed many statistics and stories relating to the refugee crisis: http://www.unhcr.org/

The Refugee Council have compiled some useful facts around refugees and migrants: https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/policy_research/the_truth_about_asylum

UK Government official statistic: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2015/immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2015#

Online forums and twitter feeds – many of the online forums listed above recount first-hand experience of particularly the Calais jungle experience and can provide a useful insight. Others to try are:

Worldwide Tribe in Calais https://www.facebook.com/theworldwidetribe.

Sign up to the UNHCR’s twitter feed.

Articles:
Behind the headlines: A critique of UK immigration and asylum policy – An Article printed in the Spring edition of The Bible Society’s In Transmission series. Authored by Fleur Houston, a minister of the United Reformed Church with extensive international experience. book, You Shall Love the Stranger as Yourself: The Bible, Refugees and Asylum, was published by Routledge in April: http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/uploads/content/bible_in_transmission/files/2015_spring/BiT_Spring_2015_Houston.pdfgical response on the appropriate language

BBC – a useful article aiming to unpack some of the numbers and drivers behind this current situation: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24583286

5. PRAY
There are a number of prayers and spiritual resources available to help churches to reflect and remember refugees and migrants, as well as those communities and organisations trying to meet their needs.

Seeking Sanctuary prayers – This local Christian organisation working in Calais has compiled a series of prayers, many by local ministers. It includes a prayer commended for use by Archbishop Justin: http://prayersformigrants.weebly.com/

Church of England – prayer for the refugee crisis: https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/topical-prayers/a-prayer-for-the-refugee-crisis.aspx

 Joint Public Issues Team – prayers and reflections compiled by the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland joined: http://methodist.org.uk/mission/world-church/world-church-news/refugee-crisis-resources-prayers-and-updates

Light a candle – There is a social media campaign to encourage people to place a lighted candle in their windows at 8.30pm on 21st Sept, on International Peace Day to remember the refugees crisis and call for peace in Syria. However could this be enacted in a vigil service at your church as part of a service of reflection on sanctuary, welcome and the refugee crisis?