Yesterday we gathered together a few sacks of winter clothing – heavy sweaters, thick trousers, waterproof gear, that sort of thing – and stuffed a donation into an envelope. There’s a van leaving Liverpool this weekend, bound for Greece, driven by volunteers from Mersey Aid. That heavy sweater I no longer wear because the climate change winters here are always warm may end up on the back of someone like me – a teacher from Homs, or a medic from Damascus. So little we can do as individuals.
Today the Guardian website features a comprehensive and deeply worrying overview of the refugee crisis. In Winter is coming: the new crisis for refugees in Europe, Guardian journalists report on the deepening humanitarian crisis that is unfolding along the refugee trail from the war-torn Middle East as winter sets in – from the Greek island of Lesbos to the Macedonian border and beyond.
The latest UN figures, reveal 218,000 made the perilous Mediterranean crossing last month – roughly the same as the number for the whole of 2014. Sheer desperation is driving those fleeing an escalating war in Syria and other conflicts to take terrible risks.
Even worse, Human Rights Watch says that all the way along the route into Europe through the Balkans “there is virtually no humanitarian response from European institutions, and those in need rely on the good will of volunteers for shelter, food, clothes, and medical assistance.”
The number of people camped in tents and huts in Calais has doubled in a few weeks from 3,000 to 6,000, according to France’s interior ministry, and conditions are rapidly worsening.
What to do? We can rush winter supplies to the desperate ones trekking through hail and mud in the Balkans, but as Jeffrey Sachs writes, also in today’s Guardian, there are no easy answers to Europe’s migration crisis. One thing is for certain: Britain is deeply implicated. Even Tony Blair now admits that the illegal invasion of Iraq was the trigger for the catastrophe that now sweeps through the Middle East. And chickens are coming home to roost: Refugees plead for their release from RAF base in Cyprus.
- Read the full Guardian report here.
- Channel 4 News have assembled an ‘interactive video journey’ called Two Billion Miles that follows in the footsteps of refugees as they face months of hardship on the road.
- Europe’s Migration Crisis: Human Rights Watch
- Refugee crisis: what can you do to help? (Guardian)
- Save the Children: appeal
- MerseyAid: refugee support
- Aid workers at Calais refugee camp appeal for right kind of donations (Guardian)
- Christian Aid: European refugee crisis
- Crisis Aid: emergency appeal in support of refugees in Europe