Aylisha Hogan is raising money to support Refugees this Winter, here she explains why they are in need, and how you can help.
In April 2017 the Grand-Synthe refugee camp was destroyed in a fire. The camp, and its mould-ridden, plywood shelters was home to over 1,000 mainly Kurdish refugees. In the aftermath of the fire, these people were temporarily kept in local gymnasiums before being bussed to ‘welcome’ centres across France. Many left Dunkirk, those who wanted to stay set up camp in the nearby forest where they have remained and struggled to survive ever since. Mobile Refugee Support (MRS) provides mobile aid, consolidation and support to refugees and displaced peoples in Dunkirk, northern France. In the absence of electricity, MRS bring a generator to the camp so the people can charge their phones, these phones are a vital source of communication allowing refugees to stay in touch with their families and NGOs. As there are no cooking facilities, Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) provides hot nutritious meals daily. Other NGOs sporadically provide the other daily meals, the quality of which is certainly questionable. MRS have been able to provide some gas stoves to families in Dunkirk so that they can prepare their own meals with dignity and restore some normality to the lives of children growing up in this difficult environment.
The Kurdish people are an ethnic group, throughout history they have had their claims to autonomy denied and culture repressed. The Kurds come from many regions including Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Violent conflicts in these regions have forced Kurdish people to flee. In the media, there has been a lot of discussion over ‘push and pull’ factors of migration. Refugees can make limited choices but those in Dunkirk have concluded the UK is their best option, based on their desire for family reunification, their ability to already speak English, and their perceptions of the UK as a free, democratic country where they could be made welcome. UK immigration policy and its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers is designed to make people feel the opposite of welcome.
The politics of exhaustion describes the tactics employed by the state and the experience of displaced peoples, manifesting itself “in various forms of violence on behalf of authorities”. This violence can be seen in; the destruction of living spaces, ‘trapping’ people through the restriction of movement either by detention or borders, feelings of hopelessness created by the uncertainty of asylum procedures, and the obstruction and criminalisation of humanitarian aid. The police in France are the main tool the state uses to employ their exhaustive tactics. The CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité) are the main branch of police responsible for controlling the spaces which refugees live in. The CRS are tasked with maintaining public order and are highly trained in riot control, they have a notorious reputation for violent clashes with protestors and civilians and since the 2005 riots in the Banlieues of France, have been exposed as inherently racist. The police regularly destroy living spaces in Dunkirk without notice, children do not escape this violence. One volunteer doctor explained to me how he treated a child for head injuries sustained whilst running away from the police.
MRS depends on its vehicle to deliver material aid and support to the several hundred people living in the Dunkirk camp. Their beloved Land Rover is sadly not fit for this purpose and expensive mechanical repairs are draining vital resources. They are currently appealing for monetary donations to help fund a new vehicle.
In addition, MRS are appealing for material donations, most urgently; tents and tarpaulin sheeting to build shelters, waterproof clothing, thermal sleeping bags, warm clothing, high-energy dried foods, and torches. A full list can be found on their website. I am collecting donations in Belfast on behalf of this organisation and they will be delivered in December.
The dark nights and cold, wet weather compounded with frequent police violence and refusal of governments to offer any solution, are making this situation more unbearable. Supporting NGOs such as MRS in Calais and Dunkirk is just one way to show solidarity and support these displaced people. It is also vital to remember the political and historical context of refugee crisis and continue to fight for long-term, durable solutions.