7 Awful Things Told to Cracked by Syria’s War Refugees

Cracked specialise in listicles – 5 Things I Learned Infiltrating a Paranormal Convention, 5 Weird Ways You Didn’t Realize TV Is Sexist, you know the sort of thing. A recent article is the excellent We Met Syria’s War Refugees: 7 Awful Things They Told Us. It’s from September this year, but readers may not have seen it. It’s well worth a read – and, a weep – but I’ll just quote

#1. People Are Helping (And You Can Too)
Let’s give credit where credit’s due: Plenty of folks in Europe have been unbelievably awesome to the refugees flooding into their countries. German police in Munich actually had to ask people to stop sending in aid donations, because they were too “overwhelmed” to process everything they’d received. Thousands of people in the U.K. have volunteered to host refugees in their homes. But it isn’t enough… And the truth is, most countries don’t open their borders until the citizens raise enough of a stink to overcome the stink being raised by the opposition. While the E.U. floundered for a while at how to deal with the whole mess, they recently passed a sweeping plan that will rehome 150,000-plus new refugees. European members of parliament credited citizens getting super pissed off with shaming the government into doing the right thing.

Read more here.

Refugees in Lesbos

Calais is, of course, only one of several places along Europe’s borders where refugees gather. Another is Lesbos, where some people making the dangerous crossing from Turkey in flimsy boats end up. Many don’t make it, and drown at sea. Conditions on Lesbos are appalling. The island cannot cope with the numbers of refugees arriving. A few volunteer organisations try to help as best they can, but provision is woefully inadequate.

“There are thousands of children here and their feet are literally rotting, they can’t keep dry, they have high fevers and they’re standing in the pouring rain for days on end. You have one month guys, and then all these people will be dead”.

Those were the final words of Dr Linda on the phone, a doctor that our volunteer organisations (Help Refugees and CalAid) had asked to fly out to Lesbos in response to an emergency cry for help from an overwhelmed volunteer on the ground…

The situation in Moria [a refugee camp on Lesbos] is utterly catastrophic. I’ve had people holding half dead babies up to me the whole day and we have nowhere to send them. All the NGOs are inside and doctors only rarely come out. Tomorrow will be a disaster, there are no dry clothes for anyone, no shelter, there are children sleeping in bin bags, no food, no blankets, no diapers for babies. No access to drinking water for the people at the back of the line, people will sleep in the wet and cold tonight in the open air, half the people will wake up sick, some will die.

You can read more here.

Want to help? How to Help Refugees has a list of all the organisations working on Lesbos, and information about how to get involved.

Police violence in the Jungle, Calais

European readers of this blog will no doubt know about the unofficial refugee camp at Calais. For those of us based in the UK, it’s the nearest such encampment to our borders. Calais has long been a place where migrants gather – for some, it’s the last point on a perilous journey to their intended destination of the UK. Conditions are, as one might imagine, horrendous. Astonishingly (or perhaps not, given Europe’s general, long-standing reluctance to deal adequately with forced migration), the first report into conditions in the Jungle – the largest migrant shanty town in Calais – was only carried out this year. It makes for an upsetting read. Around 3,000 people – men, women, and children (some of the women are pregnant) – live in ‘diabolical [conditions], with cramped makeshift tents plagued by rats, water sources contaminated by faeces and inhabitants suffering from tuberculosis, scabies and post-traumatic stress disorder… in conditions far below any minimum standards for refugee camps’. There is insufficient food, insufficient drinking water, and a lack of washing facilities. You can read the Guardian write-up here.

In addition, refugees are continually subject to police violence. A friend who has volunteered as a doctor in the Jungle reported that many of the people coming to her had wounds from police dogs that were set upon them. Other friends doing migrant support in the Jungle report that the police use tear gas daily. They are also using rubber bullets and concussion grenades. One such night of police violence occurred on November 9th:

Without the slightest sense of concern for the 60 or 70 families resident in this area of the camp the police’s barrage of tear gas and flash balls scattered over the camp, setting light to a tent, a pile of rubbish, trees, and bushes.

Mothers stood by while the police attacked, shouting in French that there were children in the camp. Groups of families returning from another part of jungle were caught by a plume of tear gas blowing across the area. Many of the protestors on the road used signs to protect themselves but the police continued to attack from several angles.

Late into the night, the police begin patrols to find migrants who had hidden in bushes by the road. At one point at least 20 cops shot tear gas for a full 5 mintues into an area until it was covered in smoke.

As the night continued, the intesnsity of the tear gas increased. The wind spread the cloud of caustic vapour around the entire west side of the camp. This was a clear message from the police, if you protest we will punish all of you. During the night there was also many injuries from tear gas canisters hitting people, causing burns and bleeding.

The injuries from this assault are difficult to quantify, it is easy to count the scores of respiratory problems, skin and eye irritations but the psychological trauma is harder to see. Women, children, and men fleeing conflict are treated to the best of French hospitality, a night of indiscriminate chemical repression exacted on the entire population of the camp.

You can read more here.

This is no way to treat people. Write to your governments. There needs to be a humane, European-wide response to the refugee crisis. We should not tolerate people living in these conditions on our shores.