Things are moving very quickly with the SWAN convoy. We will be joining Stand Up To Racism and going to Calais on 17 October.
We already have 11 vans going from Manchester and hopefully 10 from Liverpool. There are cars coming from Glasgow, Birmingham, North Wales, Brighton and London.
In Liverpool on Friday a large meeting started to organise for the convoy. They need to raise £300 for each car/van (to cover petrol and train crossing). So it was agreed to:
- Set up a ‘Just Giving page’. On the page each £300 donated will be marked off against another car to show (visually) where the collection is up to.
- Parents agreed to approach their schools to ask for a ‘no uniform day’ to raise funds.
- A collection will take place at Hope University every lunch time week beginning 5 October.
- A fundraising social is being organised.
These were just some of the fundraising ideas the group came up with. Ideally your group/network should do similar.
In Calais it is mainly men who are in the jungle. So you should load up with tents, male clothes, shoes, sleeping bags, waterproofs.
In Liverpool the meeting decided that women’s and children’s clothes and goods would be kept behind and we would look to raise funds for a container to take them to Kos or Samos where there are many more women and children amongst the refugees.
Pack everything together – have a bag of shoes, another one of jumpers, another of waterproofs – and label them. Mixed bags leave our French colleagues with a huge task of separating them out.
Money is vital. Do a collection at your work, college, community. We need money for the cars – but the organisations need money as well.
We will transfer any money for the refugees and support organisations into the Stand Up To Racism account the week before the convoy (see report below). This is to save on international exchange charges – and make sure more money goes direct to the refugees and support organisations.
Stand Up to Racism carried out an initial convoy on 5 September. Here is a report on their trip:
Initial Calais convoy
A convoy of 15 cars brought supplies and over £6,000 in cash for migrants trapped in the “jungle” in the French port of Calais.
The convoy was organised by the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) campaign. Everything it took was raised by ordinary people.
Many were surprised by the positive response. Kate from Oxford said, “I put something on Facebook and people have been donating.
Seeing the horrific pictures on TV has galvanised people who might not have had a political bone in their body.”
One of the biggest delegations was from Brixton in south London, where trade unionists brought banners to wave the cars off.
It included a group from a local mosque, the Lambeth Masjid and Progressive Community Centre.
Umar said: “The local community has been very positive about it.
“All of us migrated here, if not this century then in the last one.”
The refugees’ increasingly defiant struggle to reach safety has inspired solidarity across Europe.
People have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds and so many supplies that NGOs working with the refugees are running out of storage.
Many people rightly demand that more is done.
Hanane, a media worker from west London, said, “The government needs to provide emergency housing for these people. There’s always room for our brothers and sisters, we just need to find it.”
North London pensioner Susie Helme agreed. “It’s nonsense to say there’s no space.
“Look at all the homes that are empty, all the land that isn’t being used.”
SUTR organiser Maz Saleem said, “People are outraged. It’s disgusting how the government treats these people—as if they would risk their lives for a pittance in benefits.
“Britain needs to open the border and let them in.”
The convoy stopped at the Notre Dame church, used by charity Secours Catholique as a depot for clothes, tents and other supplies.
The donations made an immediate difference to Kadija from Ethiopia, who could replace her hijab. “I like the clothes,” she said with a smile.
Two months in the jungle have taken their toll on her. Kadija’s arm was wounded from her attempts to board the Channel Tunnel train. “It’s very dangerous and I’m very tired,” she said. “My husband is in England, and I want to go there with him.”
Michelline Ngongo, a Labour councillor in Islington, north London, read out a message of support from the then Labour leader contender (now leader) Jeremy Corbyn.
She came to Britain as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo—and could only stay thanks to trade unionists organising to defend her.
“I left my country very young, and it wasn’t easy,” explained Michelline. “I had to leave everything behind—my friends, my family.
“Let’s help these refugees. It’s very difficult to be in that situation.”
The convoy headed to a distribution centre near the “jungle” shanty-town that over 3,000 migrants call home.
Activists were moved by the sight of their conditions.
Sudanese refugee Abdullah said, “We live in a jungle, we have no shelter and we only get fed once a day. I’ve been here for three months.
“We need homes, and France isn’t helping us. You must open the borders and let us in.”
Weyman Bennett from SUTR said, “It’s very important to bring aid.
“But it’s a drop in the ocean in terms of what they need and in terms of what the government could do by opening the borders.
“What we want is for those people not to have to live in those conditions, for them to get asylum in Britain. That’s the point of us going.
“The people of Germany have welcomed the refugees. We need to bring that to David Cameron—to take to the streets and say if you don’t stand up as a human being, we’re going to make you.”
NGOs working with the refugees in the jungle need support—but can also struggle to cope with the influx of goodwill.
If you want to go to Calais, join an organised convoy and contact local organisations such as Auberge des Migrants, Secours Catholique and Salam first.
Storage space is limited. Tents, blankets, sleeping bags and waterproof coats—especially for men—are always wanted.
So are hiking boots and trainers.
One of the most useful things is money. It can go towards bigger infrastructure that’s harder to bring such as vans.
It also means you can ask for donations in your workplace or community group—the perfect opportunity to debate the issue and build for protests.
You can send money by PayPal to Stand Up To Racism for it to take to Calais in one go and save bank fees. Download a collection sheet from bit.ly/1O6pghE or find out more at standuptoracism.org.uk including links to donate.