Huge numbers of people across the city have been in touch recently to ask how they can help those fleeing conflict, hunger and suffering around the world - an upwelling of compassion and hope that is in such stark contrast to the cruel and counterproductive position of the Government. Whilst much of my work is focussed on a political response to some of the underlying reasons why record numbers of people are being displaced from their homes (and here's a piece I've written for the Guardian on this too) , there’s also a very real and urgent need to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis. Lots of local projects here in Brighton and Hove are experienced in working with refugees and asylum seekers and would welcome your support. Please contact them to find out how you can best contribute, be it time, money or other donations. Some of those I know about are listed below - please do let me know about others, and I’ll add them as I become aware of them.
Doctors of the World is the only charity providing medical help on the ground in Calais. They are looking for donations of anything from £5 to £100 (which could pay for a doctor and two nurses to staff their clinic there for one day): http://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/pages/calais-appeal
There are also a number of more informal or newer groups that have sprung up in response to the harrowing stories and pictures making the news. Some of these are collecting money or things like tents, and are linked up with groups on the ground in Calais in particular. Calais Migrant Solidarity and No Borders are urging potential volunteers and donors to think very carefully about they can best help. For example, as I write this, I understand that medical supplies and support are desperately needed, whereas food donations are less useful. There’s also a need for sim cards and mobile phones, so those people who have fled their homes can get in touch with friends and family either in Europe or who have been left behind. I’m in contact with the Council to see whether it’s helpful to set up a collection point for old phones/sims, in particular in Council offices.
In keeping with being an official City of Sanctuary, many people in our city have told me they would like to make some kind of pledge to house individuals or families seeking refuge in Britain. I’m in discussions with others in the city about how best to achieve this, and what help might be needed to coordinate these offers, and hopefully something will be available very soon. In the meantime, there is Spare Room.
For those who might feel less able to donate time or money, for example, but still want to signal their solidarity with refugees and migrants, you could sign this petition calling for the UK to accept more asylum seekers, which has now attracted enough support to help secure a debate in Parliament. There’s also this one calling on the BBC to correct its use of the terms refugee and migrant. And you could take action on social media, such as with this Avaaz campaign or by tweeting that you want to make #refugeeswelcome – see here for example.
Brighton Voices in Exile: helps those seeking asylum, refugees and those with no recourse to public funds within Sussex.
Brighton Migrant Solidarity: grass-roots community and campaign group, focusing on freedom of movement and supporting migrants
Refugee Radio: a charity dedicated to human rights and who broadcast a weekly radio programme that helps refugees and asylum seekers to have a voice.
Migrant English Project: free and informal English lessons for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.
Money Advice Plus: a charity supporting refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants by providing a fortnightly drop in desk at the BMECP. Money Advice Plus give debt and benefit advice, help with level 1 immigration advice and distributes money to people who are not entitled to benefits but the council has a duty to support.
NACCOM: a national charity supporting a network of agencies that provide accommodation for migrants who have no recourse to public funds.
Hummingbird Project: a community led, grassroots organisation offering support and solidarity to refugees in the camps in Northern France and locally in Brighton. They provide tea kitchens, first aid and medical advice service from the Hummingbird safe space clinic in the "Jungle" in Calais. They also work with other organisations in Calais to create a creative and therapeutic environment for young people, such as unaccompanied minors. Their 200-strong builders group has built hundreds of shelters and community spaces in Calais and Dunkirk and delivered around 400 fire extinguishers to the camps. In Brighton, Hummingbirds use art and peaceful protests to raise awareness of human rights, reminding the public of the conditions in the camps and how they can help make a difference.
Brighton and Hove City Council: Seeking landlords and coordinating help for refugees so do get in touch if you have any properties to rent.
This excellent blog in the Independent also has more detail on how you can get involved.