Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) has delivered its first shipment of donations to volunteer organisation CalAid.
The supplies, including men’s clothes, bedding and food, were gathered at a recently-opened collection point in Potterrow. They are to be transported to makeshift camps at the French port of Calais. The camps, which has been dubbed ‘The Jungle’, is populated by 4,000 refugees awaiting entrance to the UK from troubled countries including Syria, Eritrea, Palestine and Afghanistan.
EUSA’s Vice President Services, Urte Macikene, told The Student this weekend that the opening of the Potterrow collection point had received “a wonderful response.”
She said, “Andy [Peel, EUSA Vice President Societies and Activities] and I took a full vanload to the [CalAid] collection point on Thursday and already have enough for probably another vanload waiting to be driven down. Some of this came from a group of students who organised their own day-long collection on Quartermile which we helped out with.”
CalAid Edinburgh, the local branch of the UK-wide organisation, has set up its main collection point at Studio 24 on Calton Road, after the previously used private flat was found to be too small to hold donations arriving from across the city. An organiser at CalAid Edinburgh, Joanna McCall, said that, as the European refugee crisis has escalated over the last month, “the whole project has expanded far beyond what we thought it would, and the overwhelmingly positive support has been incredible and humbling.”
EUSA President Jonny Ross-Tatam explained to The Student why the decision to assist CalAid Edinburgh was taken by EUSA’s sabbatical team, saying, “All of us are horrified by the desperate situation of the refugee crisis. Those who are fleeing poverty, war and persecution should be welcomed with open arms and we are determined to do something.”
He continued, “We encourage as many students as possible to get involved too.”
As the tide of donations continues to swell, events and signs of solidarity with the refugees across Europe have been organised throughout the city. An ‘Edinburgh Sees Syria’ demonstration and night-time vigil drew thousands of sympathisers to the Scottish Parliament on Saturday, coinciding with similar events in other European cities and beyond.
Macikene last week indicated to The Student that she and other sabbatical officers in Scottish universities are looking at more direct ways of supporting the pro-refugee movement. She said, “Myself and some other people from NUS Scotland are looking into potentially getting some lorries from students’ unions and driving down some of the donations ourselves, just as a sort of small way of raising awareness, perhaps writing about our experiences and just being there in person.
“So we’ll see what happens with that – I’m not sure yet if we’re going to be able to do it.”
She has confirmed to The Student that “the [Potterrow] collection point will be ongoing for at least another two weeks.”
Image: An ‘Edinburgh Sees Syria’ event drew thousands of demonstrators to the Scottish Parliament over the course of Saturday.
Image credit: Chris Belous