Ireland to Calais Refugee solidarity - Report as the 1st convoys departed


One of our member is now at the refugee camp in Calais as part of the solidarity convoy that arrived from Ireland a couple of days back.  Before he left he filed this report for us.

Today the first of Ireland-Calais Refugee Solidarity’s convoys of basic aid is due to arrive in the French port of Calais. The aid is for distribution among the several thousand refugees living in deplorable conditions in makeshift camps outside the town, hoping to gain entry into the UK.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the ‘Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity’ group, collecting and organising for refugee aid convoys, the first of which is being delivered to Calais today. The group was initially set up by one very impressive person from Cork, Tracey Ryan, who was planning on collecting donations and delivering them to Calais personally. Apparently though, interest in the solidarity action was so large that it grew into a cross-country action, focused in Cork and Dublin.

At present the group has collected over €80,000, innumerable bags of physical aid, including clothes, camping equipment and medical aid, (part of which is currently en route to Calais) – and is to be followed today by around fifty volunteers who will be working at the camp for the next week doing litter picking, warehouse organising, basic structure construction, and cooking. The group is working closely with groups on the ground in Calais.

The main work I have done so far has been working with the Dublin group in receiving and sorting physical aid, coming both directly from individuals, and from self-organised drop off points around the Dublin area. I will be travelling to Calais this evening with other volunteers. The most lasting impression for me thus far, has been witnessing first-hand the compassion and kindness of so many people who all have had a desire to help an awful situation in any way they could; and arguably equally important – witnessing people’s ability to self-organise and act cooperatively and creatively in response to a serious injustice, an affront to all of our humanity.

The mantra of this group has been: this is not an act of charity, this is an expression of solidarity. We are aware that for all of our efforts we are attempting to be a plaster on an open wound. For me then, this action is of two complimentary components: in one part we are bringing basic aid to our brothers and sisters who have been brutalised and victimised, first by war and/or poverty and then by the vicious and exclusionary border policies of Europe. In the second part we are taking an unapologetic political stance: that we as individuals refuse to accept the unnecessary and continued suffering of people attempting to flee disaster. If the governments of Europe are incapable of showing basic compassion to fellow humans, then we as people will organise outside of these structures to try and ameliorate some of the suffering, and to stand in solidarity with our comrades.

Unfortunately this crisis for refugees is likely to persist, and so too will our solidarity.

If you are lucky to enough to be in a position to contribute financially, the Ireland-Calais Refugee Solidarity gofundme page can be found here

There are also likely to be solidarity events planned over the coming months, for example the Workers Solidarity Movement are held a table quiz in aid of Calais  at the Barricade Inn on Parnell St. last week.

I'd like to take this opportunity to briefly commend everybody who has so far been involved in this project. This enthusiasm, hope and compassion which characterises the group is truly inspirational.

See more of our coverage of the Solidarity that is tearing down Fortress Europe