Lib Dems donate aid and volunteer in Calais

Drop stitches not bombsDespite not being as high on the news agenda the refugee crisis is still ongoing, with thousands of people seeking safety arriving on Europe’s shores every week.

The Lib Dems have been proud to stand up for refugees and campaign for the UK to offer help and safety. Tim Farron was the first party leader to visit Calais, Lesvos and Idomeni. He has led the campaign for the UK to take in 3000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe. Our peers in the House of Lords have worked tirelessly to pressure the government to take in more refugees. On the ground Lib Dem volunteers have raised vanloads of essential items donations to be sent to aid refugees in the camps across Europe.

There are serious concerns that Brexit and rising anti-migrant rhetoric could be a backwards step in our campaigns to take in more refugees. The political developments following the leave vote could also take attention away from the ongoing plights of refugees. However we as Lib Dems refuse to let brexit mean that we forget our moral obligations to help refugees. 

Lib Dem aid trip to Calais July 2016Last week myself and Baroness Shas Sheehan led a team of Lib Dem volunteers to help in the Calais camp.  Eight of us in total stayed for a week, sorting donations in the Care4Calais warehouse, helping out with food and essential supply distributions in the camp, cleaning up the camp and teaching English to residents. We learned a great deal about the current situation in the camp. We were pleased to be able to help out in whatever way we could, experience first hand the conditions in the camp and hear the incredible stories and hopes from people who had made it this far.

Help is very much needed at the present time, with over 40 new arrivals every day in Calais alone, there are worries that donations are very low at the moment, this could become a severe problem especially during winter months. There are still people who very much need our help and solidarity.

We Lib Dems are proud to be on the right side of history in this on-going crisis and continue to campaign to help refugees.

* Bradley is an active member of the Lib Dems as a council member for both the SLF and LD4SOS, standing for local elections in 2014 and 2016 and as borough organiser for Camden in 2016. He also has a leading role in the Lib Dem campaign to raise donations for refugees and lobbying the government to settle more refugees. He is currently studying for his PhD in moral and political philosophy specialising in the philosophy of migration, borders and refugees.

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12 Comments

  • Well done to this enthusiastic team of Lib Dems. Still Over 40 new arrivals a day surprised me as the crises reported are too many to follow regularly. Is the camp growing in size again and how many can move on each day?

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Aug '16 - 1:09pm

    This is good work, but a message of pure compassion doesn’t work politically in the UK, even though it helps refugees and migrants.

    Lib Dems are still on under 10% in the polls. Where’s the panic? It could go lower when Labour get their act together.

  • paul barker 3rd Aug '16 - 1:56pm

    Sometimes we do things because they are the right things to do, not because they are popular.
    “When” are Labour going to get their act together, anytime this Century ?

  • Phil Beesley 3rd Aug '16 - 2:37pm

    We have to ask whether helicopter visits like this one assist refugees. Organisations providing water bottles, clothing, materials for building shelter etc on a weekly basis have a more direct impact. I don’t know how it is possible to be unaware of the squalor and danger in refugee camps. But I’ll accept the argument that some people don’t get it and that highlighting events are necessary.

    I went to university with a silly posh lad who was booted out for spraying racist graffiti. Three years later the lad was back at the same university as a more grown up man. He’d used his enforced time out to learn about the world and to become a more civil person. Experiences with poor people changed him. Nobody who knew about his past said a word.

  • Bernard Aris 3rd Aug '16 - 3:09pm

    Good job! This is excellent Social Liberal action: helping other people get some security in life in distressing circumstances!

    In the Netherlands, D66 MP’s and MEP’s (including party leader Alexander Pechtold MP) are among the few politicians who this summer (before the failed coup) visited the Turkish cities and refugee camps wehere ther are thousands of Syrian refugees, unable to work legally (resulty: plenty of begging and child labor), unable to travel outside their cities of residence (that equals ghetto’s), unable to get their newborn babies legal ID documents.
    The advantage of making such “outside the limelight”-visits is you can recount from first-hand experience what you have witnessed and heard, thus pointing out problems and unjust situations the national and European politicians in the EU tend to overlook in the whole migrants- & refugees saga.

    Here we can point out that Erdogan is not only increasing the repression against his own people and institutions (police invading scientific research centers), but his way of handling the Syrian refugees, subsidized with billions of EU money, leaves plenty to be desired.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Aug '16 - 9:22pm

    Yes I agree, sometimes we do things because they are right, not popular, but for me they have to have the potential to become popular. I don’t think open borders to refugees and migrants in France will.

    I wouldn’t question a charity doing the same thing, but the Lib Dems are not a charity, yet this kind of charity work seems to take up a lot of the party’s focus.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Aug '16 - 12:49am

    Eddie has not grasped on this just how useful it is for our party to be like a charity is in its volunteer activism , we need more of that not less!

    As we can play underrated and less valued roles in many spheres where that humanitarian work is needed , such as herein , so to we can do it at home and throughout the country , in communities.

    We must not let those responsible for the mess in Calais off the hook , especially the local authorities there who are negligent , but our members shown , are to be commended!

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Aug '16 - 1:08am

    Thanks Lorenzo for the response. I appreciate community politics, I just think Tim made the refugee thing a big part of the Lib Dem fightback and where has it got the party?

    I’ll say nothing next time on this because I’ve made my point. We should help the unaccompanied children, but some of the migrants should be encouraged to apply for asylum in France.

  • I think Eddie Sammon makes a crucial distinction between “party” and “charity”, which we need to take to heart as a political party; and between issues which will play well with the public (vote-winning) and those which don’t(vote-losing).

    Immigration -basically a product of the imbalance between the rich and the poor areas of the world -needs to be addressed in such a way that it becomes a vote-winner – perhaps by producing a solution which deals with the problem in situ before economic migrants reach these shores, so that people can feel more satisfied with living where they are born , instead of risking life and limb in the Med to get to Europe and create problems for us.
    The Brits have always been a resourceful and well-organised culture . We have lots of institutions which are focussed on problems abroad, and therefore considerable expertise in the field; not to mention a huge charitable impulse and a well-developed volunteer ethic.

    Why not suggest combining these elements in a government-backed scheme reminiscent of the American Peace Corps? This could impact UK unemployment levels, by provide interesting and productive work abroad for hundreds of UK youngsters involved in raising living standards and productivity, water and irrigation schemes, etc. If they did well, it would look great on their CVs (improving their job-prospects at home) , and could be used as a substitute for the sometimes-misapplied aid that we give at the moment.
    It could also start to create a very positive image abroad for this country, with all sorts of possible spin -offs. Is this an idea worthy of becoming a national Liberal Democrat campaign?

  • David Evershed 4th Aug '16 - 3:01pm

    If the Calais refugees are genuine asylum seekers rather than economic migrants, why aren’t they applying for asylum in France?

    France is a perfectly civilised country in which to escape persecution.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Aug '16 - 3:43pm

    Eddie

    Well mannered as ever , but do not give up speaking out

    John

    An effective idea but we would be in need of getting our own house in order otherwise accused of always having too much interest elsewhere when we have our own issues

    David

    Understanding what you say is missing from our approach , as I often say , the local French authorities have not shown the way on this , yes France is where the migrants must claim refugee status if they are refugees, in the midst of this mess however compassion is needed and our members are admirable , but our leaders should not retreat from criticism as well as co operation with allies .

  • Ted Claphan 4th Aug '16 - 10:48pm

    It makes me proud to be a LibDem! My witness is a little different, but I’d be more reassured were the other parties as active in this field rather than showing most concerns about their internal processes!!

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