Yesterday Europe woke up to the reality of what’s happening in our waters.
The sight of a little boy washed up on Turkish shores, captured our attention in a way that a million high detail articles never could.
It was a moment even the most right wing newspapers sobered up from their racist stupors and saw the international refugee crisis for what it is.
It’s little boys and little girls and mums and dads, grannies and grandpas, forced to leave homes and jobs and schools and friends and the entire sense of security they’ve always known.
And they don’t know what’s ahead of them.
Someone offers them the opportunity to leave the dusty refugee camps, to take their kids somewhere that has decent schools and job prospects, and they take it.
“It has to be better than this,” they think.
The Syrian refugee families we know all have friends or family members who are considering this perilous journey.
We tell them about the news articles, the risks, the many people who drown and never make it.
They say, “we know it’s dangerous, but what other option do they have?”
How do you answer that question?
After a while the idea of getting in a boat that stands some chance of getting to somewhere that just might be better than here starts to sound good.
“Sweden is beautiful. I’ve heard it’s the most beautiful place in the world. Almost as nice as Syria used to be.”
“I hear the people are so friendly in Britain. I have an uncle there.”
“I want Ahmed to be able to go to a good school, and to have a future.”
The mythology around the countries in Europe builds. People without hope look for every shred that they can find. For many, Europe or America, Canada or Australia seem like the closest chance.
For many, right now, these countries really are the closest chance at a future that’s safe and far away from their crumbling homes.
Our governments and NGOs can’t manage this immense task by themselves. They need us as ordinary citizens to get involved.
So, What can I do today?
We thought we would compile a list of ways that we can take action. It’s not exhaustive, but it should get you started…
Anyone can make a donation to the UNHCR, or smaller organisations like Hope & Trust, who work with assisting refugees in the resettlement process.
At the moment the UNHCR budget is running so low that many of the refugee families we’ve met outside of the camps have had their food budgets cut.
For those of us who pray, the 24-7 Prayer network have organised a week of prayer. You can sign up for a 1 hour time slot on their website.
In the UK
Before today’s good news that Britain will be receiving ‘thousands’ more refugees, we were going to ask you to sign a petition. Instead we’ll look at some more practical ways that you can be involved with these amazing people.
Get in touch with UK based organisations like Bridges for Communities, who work at building understanding between people of different cultures.
Check out this extensive set of links on the Independent Online.
This list gives some good suggestions of NGOs that help refugees and have a connection to Sweden.
Among them are Medicines Sans Frontiers who do sea rescue missions, as well as working in the ports, where the refugees arrive first. you can donate here.
Please feel free to contact us if you want to discuss this more.
Racist stupors? That’s pretty intolerant of you, in a fairly wide ranging way. And prejudices your comments on an otherwise important point.
September 5, 2015 — 9:51 pm
Thanks for your comment! It’s nice to hear from people who don’t agree with everything we say.
My comment was really directed towards papers like the Sun and Daily Mail. I began writing this shortly after seeing the front page of The Sun, apparently now upset by the crisis, despite their usual fear mongering about refugees.
September 6, 2015 — 4:17 pm
No worries – a helpful clarification, and whilst I intensely dislike the Daily Mail, I don’t believe it’s racist in a strict sense. That would be a prejudice or discrimination on the basis that one’s own race is somehow superior. It does however reflect a more nationalistic set of views in a pretty simplistic and incendiary way. Their volte-face on the front page was quite flabbergasting though.
To reiterate, I agree with the points you make, i’m just a stickler for propriety… it would be akin to my describing some reactions to the crisis as badly thought-through, moronic left wing short termism. I don’t believe that’s the case (mostly – Bob Geldolf, take a bow), although I think it’s a far far more complex scenario than has been presented in much of social media so far by people who simply haven’t grasped the enormity of the issue, and just see the human crisis in front of them.
Fraser Nelson (editor of the Spectator) and Mark Urban (BBC diplomatic & defence editor) both wrote quite thoughtful pieces for the Telegraph and BBC News respectively that are worth reading through if you haven’t already.
September 8, 2015 — 12:20 pm
Do you have any connections or insight into how an American can help? I hear that America is now accepting refugees, but have no idea how that looks or how I could get involved. Thanks.
September 11, 2015 — 6:37 pm
Hi Gabe, which state are you in? We do have some contacts there, so let me know and I’ll do my best to connect you with some people close by.
September 11, 2015 — 8:47 pm
I’m in Oregon, Nick W is the one who referred me to you. Thanks!
September 14, 2015 — 3:28 am
Hey Gabe, I did some research, but I’m afraid I didn’t find any good leads re: Oregon. Perhaps making contact with a local politician would be a good start?
September 24, 2015 — 9:40 pm