How to help refugees in Calais


Some may think that this may not be the best of moments to draw attention to the refugees on our doorstep, at a time when we are fighting for Britain to remain in the EU – but I disagree.

It is inevitable that the press will now focus almost exclusively on the in/out debate, but that focus is increasingly being targeted at migrants – the leave campaign having conceded the economic argument, for the moment.

The issue of migrants from the EU is being wilfully conflated with the issue of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and surrounding regions. But there is no correlation or causation link between the two; whether Britain stays or leaves the EU will have no impact on numbers arriving in Europe.

However, if Britain were to leave, where we will see a difference is in our ability to influence discussions at an EU level. Governments and institutions will continue to grapple with long term military and diplomatic solutions.

In the meantime, it is with admiration that I salute the work of the team of volunteers working on the ground in Calais and neighbouring areas, who through sheer will-power have brokered solutions that mean that conditions are just that little bit more humane for people living in desperate conditions.
Having taken part in the webinar last week, so ably hosted by Baroness Sal Brinton, in which I, Suzanne Fletcher of Lib Dems for Seekers of Sanctuary and Bradley Hillier-Smith of Camden Lib Dems answered questions about the refugee crisis, I was heartened by the demand from members and non-members alike, that we continue to fight on the behalf of refugees.

So, here are three things we can do.

Firstly, I will be heading back to Calais on Friday 10 June with essential supplies, and below you can see how easily you can contribute to the aid effort there.

Secondly, I also wanted to give early notice of getting together a Lib Dem team of volunteers to head over to Calais from Mon 25 July and returning Thu 28 July. If you would like to be part of this team please contact Bradley Hillier-Smith on [email protected] . I will arrange transport so students won’t need to worry about that expense. Please let Bradley know as soon as possible if you are interested in coming along – all warmly welcome! It would be great to have a really big Lib Dem team at the warehouse in Calais.

Thirdly, I would like interested people to contact me if they would like to write letters to their local paper. Also, if you know of local initiatives to help refugees, or know of a family who have offered a home to a refugee then please get in contact and we can see how we can publicise (sensitively!) the efforts of ordinary people. The knowledge that other people are taking action is hugely motivational.

How to contribute to my next aid delivery on Fri 10 June to Calais

Need continues to be high, with thirty people a day arriving in the wake of the clearance of camps in Belgium.

As before, I would be grateful if you could stick to the list below as storage space is at a premium and unsuitable items present a real problem both for me and the volunteers in Calais.

Please give as generously as you can – there is no official aid programme or organisation to help these people. Everything is provided through the generosity of people like you and me.

Here is a list of items you can buy online and have delivered directly to Shas Sheehan, 4 Ravenna Road, Putney, London SW15 6AW,

Please give your name as a reference.

You can ask them to leave things in the porch if no-one is at home.

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 News.


  • Simon McGrath 30th May '16 - 3:20pm

    You are doing great work Shas , but surely their should be some comment on the role of the French government in failing to provide these basics ?

  • Tony Dawson 30th May '16 - 6:07pm

    I am wondering what proportion of these people camping near Calais are actually lawfully resident in France. Might the French government have done their own nation and people some serious damage by permitting so many to live in this fashion in this area for so long, presumably in contravention of all sorts of planning and environmental laws? If they had whisked such people as could not live lawfully off to (properly-supported places in) the Massif Central or the South of France before the numbers had built up too far this might have affected the numbers setting off to join them (telephone and social media) as well as removing immediate pressures.

  • It’s impossible to be,… a refugee in Calais,… unless you can explain why they are seeking refuge from France.? The most humane and sensible thing to do is give them an application form for French citizenship, and a ball point pen.

  • J. Dunn Oh, dear, I’m dazzled by such a sophisticated response.

    @ Shas, well done, great cause, but….. buy items from Sports Direct ? No thanks.

    See the Guardian 6 May 2016. for full article :

    ” Revealed: how Sports Direct effectively pays below minimum wage Guardian undercover reporters find world where staff are searched daily, harangued via tannoy to hit targets and can be sacked in a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ regime.”

    Mike Ashley isn’t even willing to discuss this with the Select Committee.

  • The migrants are coming with no legal status in France. If they apply for Asylum in France, then the french government will take care of them. Since they don’t have a legal existence in France, the french constitution does not allow the tax payer’s money to be spent on inexistant people. Otherwise, there would be a lot of false charitable organizations with false invoices created to receive government funding! I hope you understand the french system.

  • Richard Underhill 31st May '16 - 12:38pm

    Tony Dawson, Edith France is in the Schengen area, the UK is not. Airlines are reluctant to mix ordinary passengers with people being removed unless an entire plane is hired, as the UK does. A nationalised airline can be instructed by a government but also needs landing rights in the destination country. Such traffic usually depends on trade and tourism, which is lacking in some of the destination countries.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st May '16 - 8:09pm

    Baroness Sheehan excellent work !

    Tony Dawson
    Agree completely ! We must criticise the woeful French authorities , local or national.

    David Raw
    Very good response, the power of the market place for goods in a free society and economy , should mean more utilising of consumer power ,and that includes , not so much ,blanket bans , or boycotts, of foreign countries,often ineffective ,or even hurtful to the poorest nations , but individual and group campaigns and choices, relating to exploitative powers of giants in our midst , are welcome at times,your informative comments on that store are welcome and I hope more can read them.

    The comments you make are based on knowledge of matters we do not understand,even who know much . Do please continue to inform and promote such , as the bafflement expressed shall otherwise continue ! France is unfathomable to many of us , as is the EU on the whole migrant and assylum issue !

  • Shas Sheehan 31st May '16 - 11:23pm

    The French immigration system is in an even more parlous state than ours – and that’s saying something. The link below will give you details of a test case brought to the Upper Tribunal in January this year in which the Judge found that four vulnerable people could immediately rejoin their families in the UK under Dublin III, as the French process had been found to have let them down:

  • Hilton.Marlton 1st Jun '16 - 9:02am

    Shas, thanks so much for returning our focus to Calais with many other distractions at the moment. Its hard to prioritise with so much campaigning on the go but, this is one of the real blots on our conscience which needs to be resolved. I will try and rally forces.

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