Even though the media frenzy surrounding it has largely died down, the refugee crisis remains a very pressing issue for many European countries, most notably Greece and Italy, which have been the primary points of influx of migrants, as well as Germany and Sweden, where the number of asylum applications submitted has been the highest.
Unfortunately, it’s been even more of an issue for the refugees themselves, most of whom have fled their countries to escape war and poverty, and have endured weeks or even months of a long and dangerous journey, hoping to eventually reach European asylum-granting countries.
An astonishing estimated number of about 14,000 refugees have been stranded on several Greek islands, such as Lesvos, Chios and Samos (to name just a few), where they are forced to live in makeshift camps and tents, in poor sanitary conditions and with barely enough food to go around. In Athens, as well as in other Greek cities, refugees find themselves sleeping on the pavement, benches and in shop doorways, while looking for ways to ensure a day’s meal and often falling victims to exploitation.
The refugee crisis remains a very pressing issue for many European countries
The situation in Italy is similar, if not worse, with more than 150,000 refugees living in scattered camps across the country, of whom only 25,000 are estimated to have been integrated into the system and are able to provide for themselves. The rest end up starving and are forced to work in substandard conditions, earning scarcely enough to feed their families, while often having to rely on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to provide them with food, shelter and medicine.
One such NGO is called Help Refugees, which despite having been formed only two years ago by a group of friends, has already become one of the UK’s most prominent and efficient humanitarian organizations. Through its ‘Choose Love’ campaign, the generous donations it receives and the work of its admirable volunteers, Help Refugees has been able to raise funds, together with substantial amounts of food, clothes and medicine, which thanks to the organisation’s lack of unnecessary bureaucracy have been able to be quickly delivered where they are needed the most.
Since its creation, Help Refugees has provided aid to refugee camps in multiple countries, from the ‘Calais Jungle’ camp in France, which was closed about a year ago, and more recently, to the scattered camps on the Greek islands and across Italy. In late 2015, the organisation funded 30 doctors to go to the Greek island of Lesbos, where the overwhelming number of refugees combined with the poor sanitary conditions had contributed to an outbreak of infectious diseases.
Since its creation, Help Refugees has provided aid to refugee camps in multiple countries
Besides supplying the refugee camps with tons of fruit and vegetables, Help Refugees has funded several other projects, including the launching of rescue boats in the Mediterranean and the relocation of refugees that are most vulnerable, out of the crowded camps and into actual homes.
However, Help Refugees have not limited themselves just to fundraising and donations. This past June, the organisation hired a legal team to represent them in court, on a case challenging the British government’s decision to discontinue the Dubs scheme, whose purpose was to grant asylum to an unspecified number of unaccompanied child refugees and bring them to the UK. Supporters of the Dubs scheme advocated that the UK had the capacity to offer asylum to approximately 3.000 children, but after only 350 had been relocated, the British government announced that the scheme would be stopped, claiming that there were not enough homes to house more children.
Due to the legal challenge brought forth by Help Refugees, the British government admitted that an administrative error had caused them to miss 130 additional places, increasing the number of children that would be relocated to 480. Help Refugees, along with other supporters of the Dubs scheme are still not satisfied and are insisting that the British government reopens the Dubs scheme, and that a more thorough consultation with local authorities is carried out, in the hope that this will maximise the number of children that will be relocated.
In these tough times, it is important to remember that none of us choose to flee our homes. None of us choose to become refugees. But maybe all of us can ‘Choose Love’.
More information about Help Refugees is available on their website: https://helprefugees.org.uk/