A plea for refugees from Kirsty, sixth-former and volunteer

A plea for refugees from Kirsty, sixth-former and volunteer

This story about volunteering with refugees in Calais was written by Kirsty, a sixth-form student from South Yorkshire (on the far right in the picture).


Before volunteering with refugees in Calais, I had an idea of what it would be like: what I would hear, see and learn. These preconceived ideas were mostly incorrect. For example, a common belief is that the camps are full of violence and separation between groups. This is in fact a complete reversal of the truth. I was overwhelmed by the camaraderie and community spirit all around me.

As someone said to me, “Why would we fight when we’ve all come here to flee war and conflict?”

The refugees shared in each other’s hopes and aspirations despite their different beliefs, faiths and nationalities. Before listening to their stories, I didn’t understand quite how difficult and long their ventures were.

I heard numerous stories of journeys of up to 10 years just to get to Calais, making it abundantly clear that the decision to leave their homes was not made lightly and was taken out of necessity.


Refugees are innovators, activists, problem solvers and leaders


As volunteers with Care4Calais we helped to fix bikes, mend clothes and shoes, exchange friendship bracelets, teach English, make hot drinks, play games, litter pick, give out leaflets and distribute donated items. Notably, many of those we met still have great pride in their nations (which they represented with bracelets in the colours of their respective flags).

Many of them wish to be educated in order to earn money that they can then invest back into their communities. These are innovators, activists, problem solvers and leaders who were brave enough to stand against injustice. They would benefit England’s workforce if treated as our equals.

Too often legislation is set without being critiqued empathetically. Many of those seeking refuge will go through a painstaking process to be recognised as an asylum seeker. Many will never reach this status and are dismissed back to danger because of minute technicalities that shouldn’t matter when a human being is in need. People are turned away for being presumed a different age to what they claim, though this can’t be proved.

Additionally, it’s easy to mix up details of your life after hours of interviews; such human flaws are not often accepted in the process of seeking sanctuary, however.


The problems with the Western approach to aid


The Western world is good at shining a light on humanitarian issues for very brief spurts of time. We then have a social media hashtag and collect donations to be sent in aid. Despite this being beneficial in raising awareness and helping refugees in the short term, the public outcry ends in the blink of an eye.

It becomes too easy for the government to once again ignore those in need.

The only way we can cause long-term change is by advocating for it. This is more crucial than ever now the Illegal Migration Bill has passed. We need our communities to rally like the migrants do and refuse to be ignored in the face of a gross human rights violation. It’s crucial that we hold politicians accountable, as it is policies and laws that we need to change.

Refugees are not criminals to be locked away on barges.

Refugees are not deserving of being isolated and displaced.

Refugees are not suspects to be interrogated endlessly.

They are people searching for peace. Why can’t we grant them this?

Kirsty, volunteer


Kirsty travelled to Calais with other young people and teachers on a visit led by the Columbans (Columbans Britain) and the Diocese of Hallam. Their four-day visit was part of a programme exploring the “crisis of welcome” for refugees at our borders, during which time spent volunteering with refugees is preceded by prayer and discussion, and followed by time for reflection. We are grateful for their support.

To volunteer with us in Calais, go to care4calais.org/get-involved/volunteer-in-calais/

About Care4Calais

Care4Calais was founded by a group of volunteers with the sole aim of supporting the people of the Calais refugee camps, providing fresh meals, warm clothing, heating and important legal and medical support.

We are not politicians – we are people like you who simply believe that every human has the right to be treated in a fair and dignified way.

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