SCHULL local Ciara Bottomley is co-ordinating a trip to Calais with a small group of volunteers later this month.
Largely collecting supplies from the UK, Ciara is appealing to anyone who might be able to donate to her crowdfunding page, North South Calais Solidarity.
Ciara decided to organise a trip to Calais while completing her masters, specialising in refugee law. She said that last summer’s tragic images of Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey moved public opinion and temporarily shaped European immigration policy. ‘The swell of support for refugees was huge. It was clear to me that the negative portrayals we so often see in the media, or hear from politicians, just don’t tally with the sentiments of ordinary people. The so-called ‘jungle’ has been around since 2002, it’s a humanitarian crisis on our doorsteps that must be addressed,’ she told The Southern Star.
Initially the group were crowd-funding to cover the basic transport costs of delivering two vans’ worth of supplies. Overwhelmed by the generosity of their supporters, they are now fundraising for l’Auberge des Migrants, a French NGO in Calais.
The team will spend a week volunteering in the distribution centre and kitchens catering for the 6,000 people currently living there. Ciara also hopes to put her legal skills to use while there.
‘The odds are really stacked against those living in the camps. European law means that asylum seekers must seek asylum in the first country they arrive in, effectively protecting harder-to-reach countries, like the UK and Ireland, from processing claims. Everyone has the right to seek asylum, but these procedural rules mean that men, women and children in Calais have been left behind. They are struggling to survive in a legal no-man’s land, caught between violent borders without access to state support, housing or medical care.’
The situation in Calais is unpredictable, says Ciara. ‘French authorities have bulldozed parts of the camp, amplifying the sense of displacement and insecurity and prompting allegations of human rights abuses.’ As the camp relies almost entirely on the generosity of volunteers and donations, North South Calais Solidarity decided that providing funds to the NGO directly will ensure that money is spent in line with the most urgent needs of those living in the camps.
For further information about the campaign see www.crowdfunder.co.uk/north-south-calais-solidarity or contact Ciara at [email protected]