A supply collection point for refugees camping at Calais is to be set up in the University of Edinburgh.
Sabbatical officers at the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) announced the collection point, which will be based in Potterrow from Monday, on social media. The clothes, food, medical supplies, books and other items EUSA hope to gather will be collected from Edinburgh and distributed at Calais by volunteer group CalAid.
EUSA Vice President Services Urte Macikene posted on Facebook, “Starting Monday we’ll have a collection point at the EUSA office in Potterrow for CalAid, which will be taking them down to the thousands of refugees living in camps in Calais. You can drop things off anytime between 9am-6pm.
“We will also have monetary collection points in all of our venues which will benefit the Unity Centre in Glasgow which provides support to refugees already in Scotland.”
Around 4,000 refugees are currently waiting to enter the UK in a makeshift camp, called ‘The Jungle’, in the French port of Calais. It is one front of the Europe-wide refugee crisis as hundreds of thousands flee war and oppression in countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
The EUSA donation collection will supplement CalAid Edinburgh’s central collection point, which is being set up at Studio 24 on Calton Road after the private flat being used previously was found to be too small to deal with the recent influx of donations.
An organiser at CalAid Edinburgh, Joanna McCall, commented that “the whole project has expanded far beyond what we thought it would, and the overwhelmingly positive support has been incredible and humbling.”
Charity leaders in Edinburgh and across Europe have identified the recently-published photo of drowned three-old Syrian child Aylan Kurdi lying on a beach in Turkey as the main reason for the recent surge in donations and awareness.
EUSA President Jonny Ross-Tatam told The Student, “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. So, [Vice President Societies and Activities Andy Peel], Urte and other members of the EUSA team have organised a collection point [from Monday], which you will hear more about soon. We encourage as many students as possible to get involved too.”
Macikene also spoke to The Student about what Edinburgh students can do to assist in the refugee crisis. She said, “I think the most important thing is showing solidarity and raising awareness. I think it’s a fine line because obviously it’s such an international crisis but it’s also important to be aware of our place in it. And collections really do help as well as things like lobbying the government.”
She continued, “It just so happened that [CalAid] also managed in the same sort of time period [as our decision to set up a collection] to get a central Edinburgh collection point going. And so then we just sort of jumped on the bandwagon. I think they’re the main charity organising donations going down [to Calais] at the moment, I know they’ve got networks nationally. So it seemed like they already had an established structure we could work through.”
She admitted, however, that she and other student representatives are considering more direct action, telling The Student, “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.”
CalAid Edinburgh have identified men’s clothes and shoes, camping equipment, and dry or tinned food as some of the most urgently needed donations.
Image: VPS Urte Macikene and VPSA Andy Peel endorsing the Refugees Welcome campaign in Potterrow.
Image credit: EUSA