Edinburgh bid to help refugees entering Europe

Amer Masri, Joanna McCall and Keefe McKie from CalAid with some of the items collected at the Studio 24 drop-off point. Picture: Jane Barlow

Amer Masri, Joanna McCall and Keefe McKie from CalAid with some of the items collected at the Studio 24 drop-off point. Picture: Jane Barlow

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VOLUNTEER workers in the Capital are being “inundated” with donations for thousands of people trying to enter Europe as residents respond to the continent’s escalating refugee crisis.

Edinburgh charity leaders said they were preparing to receive “vanloads” of essential items including tents, tarpaulin, candles and men’s clothing, with gifts set to arrive from across the Lothians and as far afield as Perth and Dunfermline.

Pressure is growing on the British Government to increase the numbers admitted here. Picture: Getty

Pressure is growing on the British Government to increase the numbers admitted here. Picture: Getty

Bosses at Edinburgh Direct Aid said they had already sent containers weighing around 24 tonnes to Syrian communities in Lebanon, with another eight-tonne load set to be transported over the coming weeks.

City-based charity Mercy Corps has also launched an official appeal for help after humanitarian teams were dispatched to the Greek island of Lesbos to work with refugees.

Gifts have arrived amid a surge in asylum applications which has seen nearly 440,000 requests filed across Europe between the start of the year and July.

Germany is the most popular destination and ministers there expect at least 800,000 asylum seekers to enter the country this year.

By comparison, applications submitted in Britain have flatlined, with fewer than 25,000 received in 2014.

Edinburgh charity leaders today said there were signs that images including that of a dead boy lying facing down in the sand of a Turkish beach had galvanised residents into action.

CalAid Edinburgh organiser Joanna McCall said her group, which works to distribute items to around 4000 refugees based in the French town of Calais, would offer a collection drop-off at Studio 24 in Calton Road.

She said the move had been made necessary after a spike in donations made it impractical to continue operating from a private flat, adding: “The whole project has expanded far beyond what we thought it would and the overwhelmingly positive support has been incredible and humbling.

“We have contacts now in Dunfermline, Perthshire, Dumfriesshire, possibly Inverness and several areas throughout the Lothians wishing to collect and bring vehicles filled with donations to our central drop-off, and we are working to try and accommodate everyone.”

Ms McCall said the majority of new arrivals in Calais were men and stressed CalAid would only be able to accept objects that are needed by refugees.

Men’s shoes, gloves, scarves and hats are among requested items, along with tents, tarpaulins, sleeping bags, camp beds, sleeping mats, blankets and towels.

Calling on Lothian residents to provide assistance, Simon O’Connell, Mercy Corps Europe executive director, said: “Families are risking their lives — crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece, desperate to find a better future. We need help to support them.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has also come under attack from senior political figures in the Capital after insisting that allowing more refugees into the UK was “not the answer” to the crisis.

Tommy Sheppard, SNP MP for Edinburgh East, said: “I would bet my house that the people of Edinburgh would be willing to help out.

“Hundreds of people in many constituencies have called and contacted me to voice their concern and call for a change in policy. In my opinion we should open our gates to refugees, at least in the short term.”

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “The stories of families fleeing for safety only to find themselves facing a different kind of hopelessness is heartbreaking and communities have really responded to this.”

David Cameron says letting more refugees in won’t solve problem