A number of UCD graduates are seeking assistance from current students in order to provide help to refugees in camps at Calais and across Europe. Speaking to the College Tribune, Sinéad Willliams a graduate of Law and Politics emphasised the need to support those living in camps beyond the emergency aid which is currently being provided. To make this happen, Williams and a number of other UCD graduates are in the process of establishing the Refugee Info Network (RIN).
The group hope to assemble information on the processes by which asylum can be sought by individuals in EU member states and package it in a manner which can be clearly understood by those in need of it. At present such a facility does not exist leaving those seeking asylum faced with difficulties in dealing with both bureaucracy and language barriers.
Williams feels that it is crucial to provide information clearly and concisely and in language which can be understood by those who need it. If possible, it is hoped that this will take the form of resources in the languages spoken by refugees themselves however if this is not feasible then in simple English. She asserts that it is vital that those living in camps are able to lift themselves out of the situation they have found themselves in stating that “the need for such a resource is clearer than ever. Empowering people to help themselves is the best way to get results.”
The camp at Calais has grown from a few hundred to over six thousand people in the space of less than a year. Speaking of the conditions in which the thousands of refugees are now living, Williams expressed shock at the status quo which currently exists; “It’s horrible. People living in tents, completely relying on small charities for food, clothing and shelter. There’s no Red Cross or UN presence because the French government won’t officially declare it a refugee camp.” Accommodation in the camp is inadequate for the numbers arriving there, and as most of what is in place is tentage Williams foresees a difficult winter ahead.
While the political situation in metropolitan France remains tense in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, this has not yet translated into further pressure on refugees primarily, according to Williams, as Calais and its surrounds already see strong support for the right-wing nationalist ‘Front National’ party. The support that is currently being provided to those in the camps is through several small charities and interest groups due to the decision of the French government to limit its involvement. Reports indicate that as evenings grow longer and days colder, refugees have little option but to burn whatever they can find for warmth. Williams told of two fires which occurred recently as a result of candles being used for lighting in tents. In each instance some 200 people “lost everything”.
Williams returns to Calais today, her second journey to the camps. Of her experience there, she said that “The people are so inspiring and optimistic. They’re making the best of an awful situation. I was only there for five days but I just can’t forget it and go back to my life. I have to try to help them somehow. They’re so sad that the world sees them as animals.”
Calls are being made by the RIN for anyone who is able to provide assistance to the group to come forward. “We need people to help research the asylum systems in the EU states, proof readers/editors, and fact-checkers. People with language skills – especially Arabic, Farsi and Middle Eastern languages. Maybe Czech, Latvian etc. to translate info for researchers.” Williams said. The group are also seeking assistance from anyone with experience in web or graphic design in order to establish a website through which the collected information can be shared.
Williams stressed that the group are not seeking donations of goods or money. Rather, they need people to give whatever time they can spare to help with the collection of information. If you feel you can assist, please email [email protected] and the editors will place you in contact with Sinéad and her team.