Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Moral leadership needed on refugee crisis

This refugee crisis is the biggest movement of people since WWII. It needs visionary people with big thinking to get to grips with it, because make no bones about it, it will need to be tackled and a head in the sand attitude will not make it go away. So, it is a  proud day when the leader of our party, Tim Farron, makes it a centrepiece of his keynote speech at conference and receives a standing ovation for it.

Politics is the art of the possible – but only when we have the leaders to make the possible happen.

The only western leader with the cojones to step up to the plate has been Angela Merkel. But she has been let down by other European leaders – not least our own Prime Minister, hiding behind the skirts of dysfunctional Dublin III regulations.

A little prodding behind Murdoch press headlines shows that last weekend’s elections in Germany, in spite of a spike in the far right vote, were far from a disaster for the pro-refugee German leader.

Britain and France make much of the “pull factors” – that making conditions just that little bit more humane will be a magnet. What utter rubbish. As though people flee their lovely homes, their lives, their careers, with only what they can carry – just to get the next phone upgrade. 

For many it has meant trekking thousands of miles and risking a treacherous sea-crossing organised by unscrupulous people smugglers, risking life and limb and that of their children –  making that choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Until their homelands return to some semblance of normality, we cannot expect people to return.

But we need to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe facing us.

Having visited Calais and Dunkirk, I know the conditions there are atrocious – desperately cold, dehumanising and demeaning.

But poor though the conditions are the camp had become “home” to many people. As of last week the French authorities started the process of demolishing those homes, but the containers and reception centres that asylum seekers were asked to go to are full, or in some cases more dangerous than the camp.

So, I will be making another trip to the camps in Calais and Dunkirk, with a van packed with essential items that camp volunteers have said they would accept.

Your response last time was amazing, I hope you can be equally generous this time.

What you can do to help

A delivery to Calais will take place on Thursday 24 March.

A carefully compiled list, with input from organisations on the ground, has been put together – see below. A couple of collection points in London have been organised. Please feel free to organise a collection for your own local party (and do involve the wider public too) and arrange delivery to one of the collection sites.

If you are outside London then you will be able to buy items online, and ask for delivery to be made to the address in Putney below.

These items are top of our list of essential needs and will be much appreciated.

Essential items for Dunkirk (Please note: only these can be accepted):

Sleeping bags/thick blankets (to buy online, see below)
Roll mats (to buy online, see below)
Camp beds (to buy online, see below)
Camping stoves/gas/cooking utensils (to buy online, see below)
Warm jackets/coats (Preferably wind/waterproof or ski jackets)
Warm trousers, preferably waterproof but not essential
Sturdy boots/walking boots
Underwear/socks (New)
Baby wipes
Black bin liners (strong ones)
Wind up torches/lanterns (to buy online, see below)
Food parcels including the following:
Tinned tuna, chickpeas, tomatoes, lentils, beans and fruit (preferably pull-ring tins)
Rice (No pasta!)
spices – ground ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli
Tea, sugar, salt

NB: Only the items of clothing mentioned above can be accepted. All clothes must be bagged and clearly labelled, eg “women’s coats”.  If you are donating sleeping bags you have at home please try to pack them up as small as possible.

Collection points and dates:

Camden local party. Address is 242 Webheath Community Workshops, Netherwood Street, London, NW6 2JX.
Contact is Bradley Hillier-Smith: [email protected], 07832 972270
Opening hours: Sun 20 Mar 7pm-9pm, Wed 23 Mar 10am-5pm

Putney Drop-off point: 4 Ravenna Road, London SW15 6AW. Parking available in driveway.
Contact is Sam Finniear: [email protected], 07432 870198, or Shas on 07810 108983
Opening hours: Anytime. If no-one is in please leave items in the covered garage with a note to say who it is from.

Here are the online items:

Please ask for them to be delivered directly to:
4 Ravenna Road, Putney, London SW15 6AW.
You can ask them to leave things in the porch if no-one is at home.
Sleeping bag – Sports Direct (£19.00)
Camping gas stove – Amazon (£8.49)
Gas cartridges – Purely Outdoors (£13.18)
Tents – Argos (£24.99)
·  Halfords (£50.00)
·  4 man, tunnel design, pitched size: 420 x 210 x 140cm
·  [BEST OPTION] Decathlon (£64.99)
·  4 man, wind and rain resistant, double layered, includes living/storage area, pitched size: 240 x 210 cm (bedroom) and 175 x 260cm (living area).
Roll mats – Sports Direct (£3.50):
Wind-up Torch/lantern (£7.95)
Camping bed – Blacks. Raised from ground to prevent clothes becoming wet (£15.00)

Please give whatever you can to help people living in such desperate conditions – and thank you for donating to the Lib Dem humanitarian effort.

* Shas Sheehan is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 19th Mar '16 - 2:33am

    Where’s the mass outrage over the refugee crisis? We’ve had a lot of articles on this recently, and I’m not one to usually lead humanitarian outrage anyway, although I do call people out and sign petitions, but it seems to be that there are a lot of national socialists in the country and I don’t mean the Hitler type.

    Tax the rich more? Strong public support. Striking junior doctors? Strong public support. Refugees? Public doesn’t really want to know.

    I don’t think these contradictions are sustainable, but I’d like some academics to explain what is going on.

    Best regards

  • Catherine Royce 19th Mar '16 - 5:48pm

    Is anyone interested in the 3,000+ unaccompanied children? they MUST be our top priority, both in humanitarian terms and because they are at grave risk of sexual abuse and human traffickers whilst they are in the camps, and on the roads trekking across Europe, it is said that some have already ‘disappeared’
    It is our international obligation and moral duty to safeguard them, can we please have a national campaign to focus on this most vulnerable group? -NOW!

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