The Syrian civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. More than four million refugees have fled Syria since the war began there in 2011, with more than eleven million people displaced inside and outside of the country.
According to the UN’s refugee agency, almost 1.8 million have gone to Turkey, 600,000 to Jordan and one million to Lebanon (which, to put it into perspective, has a population of only four million people).
Germany is expected to take up to one million refugees this year and 10,000 Icelandic homes have offered to take in refugees themselves after their Government said it would take only a handful. In fact, 16 other EU countries have taken in significantly more refugees than the UK.
Between June 2014 and June 2015, this country took in 166 Syrian refugees.
In total, we have allowed 216 into the country.
An article in the Independent today points out that this number of people would fit on to one Tube train, with seats to spare…
Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty Images
Social media has been flooded with images of struggling families scrambling over barbed wire fences in Calais, or attempting to cross the Mediterranean in tiny fishing boats. Today an image of a three-year-old boy lying lifeless on a Turkish beach after the boat his family were travelling sank has made the front pages of several newspapers, and has finally made everyone sit up and take notice of a crisis that’s been looming for months.
If you are feeling affected and would like to do something, but aren’t sure where to start, here are ten simple things you can do.
1. Donate money to a charity
Save the Children is running a campaign called ‘Shame on Europe’ which encourages you to pledge your support for those fleeing war and persecution. You can add your name in support of the campaign, and make donations of any amount here.
Donate, join the campaign, fundraise or volunteer for Refugee Action. You can write a message of support in the ‘Welcome a Refugee’ section (which may seem a bit futile but at least it expresses and encourages solidarity – which is more than the majority of us have probably done thus far..)
Migrant Offshore Aid Station is a charity solely dedicated to preventing migrant deaths at sea.
2. Donate clothes and other items
FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP/Getty Images
Several groups are arranging donations to Calais and it’s easy to get involved. Some, such as Calais Migrant Solidarity, are collecting general items such as clothes, supplies and humanitarian items. Others are looking for donations of specific items.
Childhood Bags are fundraising for books, toys and warm clothes for children in Calais. Music Against Borders are specifically appealing for donations of musical instruments. The Jungle Library is collecting books for the makeshift library at the Calais camp.
3. Buy specific items for people in need
An Amazon Wishlist has been set up with a list of items that refugees in Calais are specifically in need of. You can buy everything from men’s walking shoes to tins of beans.
The truck leaves on September 17 so there’s still time to spread the word.
4. Get involved with grassroots groups
Phillipe Hilippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images
There are all sorts of local groups taking action to do what they can to help the crisis.
Some that you can help include Glasgow Solidarity with Calais Migrants which will see Diane and Bob drive over to Calais themselves with supplies. A family based in Thurrock have started the group Side by Side which is helping gather items for basic humanitarian aid from people in their area and The Worldwide Tribe in Calais is a travel blog which has garnered a lot of interest. They are documenting the story of the people in the Calais camp, raising money through crowdfunding and delivering supplies.
You can contact all of these groups to find out ways to help via the links above.
5. Use Facebook for good
Show your support for the Syrian refugees by joining some of the many groups out there, all of which are pledging support, raising money and even arranging drop-offs of donations themselves via Facebook. The group Calais – People to People Solidarity – Action from UK is regularly organising aid from the UK to Calais and you can find your local group here.
6. Attend peaceful events
On September 12, an event called Glasgow Sees Syria will take place in George Square, opposite the City Chambers. So far, 4,600 people have said they are attending – each of these will hold a candle in memory of the many who have died in their attempt to reach safety. The idea is to convey the message that the people of Glasgow will not abide the Home Office decision to help so few refugees.
Check out what events are happening in your area.
7. Sign a petition
With petitions on sites like Change.org and 38 Degrees popping up all over the place for everything, there is a slight feeling of disdain towards certain campaigns at times. It feels a bit rich, sitting behind a computer screen at a comfortable desk and signing an online petition during your lunch break.
But remember that it’s better than doing nothing, and petitions are extremely useful in forcing the Government to take notice.
Two petitions to get you started are:
8. Email your MP
An alternative option to signing a petition is to email your local MP and demand that they do all they can to demand the UK Government acts now.
And it couldn’t be easier. Visit 38 Degrees, pop in your postcode and the website will generate an email template which you can send as is, or add more to yourself.
8. Recycle for charity
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images
If you’re anything like me you’ll probably have a couple of old Nokias buried away in drawers somewhere.
10. Use eBay for good
Let’s be honest. We’ve all got too much stuff that we don’t need. If you are an eBayer then you should get involved with the site’s charity arm Missionfish where you can donate 10% – 100% of what you make to support refugees and asylum seekers. It won’t affect your eBaying, it just means that you can donate with each sale, as you choose to. Charities registered with Missionfish include Save the Children, Refugee Action, The Red Cross and more.
It might not seem a lot, but if we all said that there would be no charitable aid going anywhere at all.