These terms are used daily in the media when reporting newsworthy incidents across the globe. They put into mind far away places and things that don’t concern us, conflicts started for reasons we don’t understand or have somehow forgotten. But what if that civilian casualty was your friend? What if those displaced people were your family?
The press chose to dehumanise our brothers and sisters in need in northern France and all over the world. One of my refugee friends in Calais, Aly lost his brother on the boat crossing to Italy. He then watched three of his friends die during another part of their traumatising journey. He now sleeps rough in Calais where temperatures are regularly below freezing. This man is not just a “displaced citizen”. He’s a shy, calm, kind man who tries to teach me Farsi and has no option to return home. Aly is from Iran and is Christian. There aren’t many others from Iran and are Christian, meaning that Aly doesn’t have many friends among the other refugees. If he returned to Iran he would be “persecuted”. Another word that outlines some grey idea of injustice without any real meaning. If Aly returned he would, at best, be isolated from the rest of the largely Muslim society - at worst , he faces violence or death. But he has another option. His older sister lives in Birmingham with her family and has done for several years.
If you believe in human rights - in treating our brothers and sisters with the most basic respect - but don’t know how to help there are several things you can do.
- I urge you to write to your MP in support of the family reunification bill. This would allow my friend Aly to join his sister and her family in Birmingham and sleep under a roof, not under a bridge. Full details and a link to find your MP are on Care4Calais.org
- Volunteer. Care4calais always needs more hands to help and will assist in finding car shares and room shares in Calais. No qualifications required!
- Advocate. Join Care4Calais on social media and like, share and talk about what they post. So many people don’t realise the scale of the issues in northern France or people’s complex stories. You can help spread the word.
- Donate. Regular donations make planning easier. If you can set up a direct debit with a contribution then visit Care4Calais.org
If you want to know more about volunteering or have any other questions then please just get in touch.