Help for struggling refugees in Europe

Update posted by Alex Manessi On Mar 29, 2016

With the help of many mane people, not least the mayor of Dunkirk and MSF, conditions have improved since our visit last month.

The MSF camp has opened, and while the French government is trying to shut it down, for the time being it is still there. A lot of help is still needed, but refugees have a solid roof over their heads and no longer walk around in knee deep mud.

Small satellite camps have opened up as a result of not everyone wanting to move to the MSF camp, and help is particularly needed there.

Thank you everyone who has helped make a difference already. In 21st century Europe there is no excuse for the conditions refugees are being made to live under.

We managed to spend over €2,500 euros of money donated by you on 600 gas cylinders, over half a ton of rice, fresh fruit, 200kgs of tuna and veg. We also donated all the warm clothes (men, women and children) that were donated as well as handing out toys!! This was the last drop in the old camp, which is now closed. Everything was massively appreciated.


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Update posted by Alex Manessi On Jan 24, 2016

The response has continued to be fantastic as we plan our January 30th trip to Dunkirk.

So many donations have come in. Sleeping bags, blankets, warm clothing, medical supplies, waterproofs and more. Someone has kindly donated their van for us to use, which is fantastic as the donations alone are enough to fill several cars.

MSF are finally building a tented camp in Dunkirk and work has started, long overdue but fantastic news. All the donations are still sorely needed, but since MSF announced the tented camp (and since tents aren't being allowed into the current camp by police) we are moving some of the money we were going to spend on tents to gas bottles and food parcels.

An update will be posted once we are back. Thank you all so much for helping so many people. :)

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Update posted by Alex Manessi On Dec 29, 2015

The authorities in Dunkirk have passed a by-law banning all building materials, tents, sleeping bags and blankets from entering the camps, currently resident to 2,500 men, women and children.

Only clothes and food is allowed in, and this has to be walked in, vehicles are no longer allowed access.

This is designed to reduce the living conditions inside the camp to such a level the migrants disperse. It's sickening in the middle of winter that police are searching people entering the camps and confiscating the blankets and sleeping bags that will keep their children warm at night.

I am in touch with volunteers on the ground, some have been sneaking things in through the forrest during the night, but this is not ideal. I haven't figured out exactly how the next trip will work given we have collected just items that are specifically banned, but we will find a way to make it work.

As always, if you would like to make a physical donation DM me your address and if possible I will collect, or if not, I am based in East London.

Alternatively your cash donations on this page are also very much appreciated.

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Update posted by Alex Manessi On Nov 24, 2015

Slightly delayed update after our trip on November 14-15.

Back in the UK now after an eventful weekend. Met some amazing people who are working hard to try and improve the lives of people in the Grande-Synthe camp in Dunkirk.

In the end we almost had more donations than we could take, every item some of you donated helped - even the items that weren't suitable are being take to "Cash for Clothes" where they will help us raise an additional £80.

Here's how the weekend went:

Saturday:

After the tragic news in Paris, we weren't sure if we would be allowed to travel, but we were determined nonetheless. We woke up expecting to find boarder closures, but saw that Eurotunnel was running on time. We loaded up the last bits and headed off. We arrived in Dunkirk where we met Hafsa who is int he camp daily helping and who leases with volunteers visiting the camp, she also has storage for donations and let us store the items we brought over until the next day when were going into the camp.

We then drove to the Auchan supermarket where we loaded up with supplies to create individual food packets containing oranges, apples, rice, tuna and onions. It took a couple of trips to fit everything in. We spent the evening putting them together and ended up with 520 food packets and 360 1.5l bottles of water.

Sunday:

We were a bit concerned about how we were actually going to transport everything to the camp. It would have taken several trips. Hafsa and another volunteer, Sarah, had agreed to help us distribute. Keir bumped into Sarah and 3 other volunteers at the hotel who had an empty flat bed truck. It took two trips to the camp, but the six of us managed to hand out all the food packets, water and clothes. About 10% was held back for targeted distribution either to those that were unable to walk to the drop-off point near the camp entrance, or those that didn't show up but Hafsa and Sarah knew needed some of the donations.

Had we not had Hafsa, Sarah and the other experienced volunteers' help it would have been very difficult to hand out all the donations we had. It is thanks to the people we met and those like them, who help on a regular basis, that many people in the camp aren't in a worse situation.

There were too many children in the camps. We brought chocolates for the children, as well as some clothes, but sadly much more was needed.

After we finished handing things out we walked towards the centre of the camp where there is a tea hut. Just as we were sitting, waiting for some tea, there was shouting outside. We went out to see what the commotion was and a lot of people were running through the camp. We weren't sure what was happening, but it seems there was a personal dispute that escalated. The fire brigade and police arrived and the volunteers had to leave the camp for some time.

I have some pictures of the journey attached, but as we left in a hurry before getting an opportunity to walk around the camp, I don't have many pictures to show you exactly how bad the living conditions really are. There is no permanent help, some aid agencies do visit, but not regularly, there is a lack of shelter and blankets so some people are literally sleeping in the mud on freezing nights. The weather was so bad over the weekend that some tents were literally blown away.

Heading back in January and the focus this time will be on tents and sleeping bags. We will still take any other donations, but if you have spare tents or sleeping bags or would like to buy any to donate, please let me know. The GoGetFunding page is still open and collecting for January.https://gogetfunding.com/food-and-shelter-for-migrants-in-d…/

There are estimated to be 1300-1500 people in the Grande-Synthe camp now, this is one of 4 camps in Dunkirk.

We had a massive increase in donations in the last week and at the time were unable to plan around how to make best use of the added money. In the end we made money stretch very far and made all teh food parcels spending just £590. This has left £900 to put towards out trip in January, where we hope to raise £3500 to buy 100 tents, sleeping bags, blankets and groundsheets.





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Update posted by Alex Manessi On Nov 11, 2015

Still astounded by the response. It's easy to be cynical when governments are seemingly ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away, but when you see so many people care - spending their own time and money to help - it's really heart-warming.

I travelled to Oxford yesterday where Rene gathered a lot of donated items in her basement. These included warm clothes, blankets, shoes, jackets and some first aid. The response in the past week has been so strong that we a) ran out of space and had to turn some donations down and b) received much more money than we are able to plan how to spend properly by the time we leave in a few days time,

So... we will stick with the initial plan of using donated money to create individual food parcels. The great news is that MSF and other aid groups have finally moved into the camp and there are permanent volunteers on-hand. They will help us distribute on the day (which is fantastic as we have never done this before) and have advised us on what is needed and what to leave behind, as well as what food to buy.

  • For the individual food parcels we will include fresh fruit, veg, tinned item and water, in addition to this, we will also provide bags of rice, beans and chick-peas
  • Any clothes that were donated that are deemed unsuitable are taken to Cash-For-Clothes and the money added to the campaign, we expect this to add about 50
  • We are already planning the next trip, so any surplus cash will be put towards that. The next trip will focus on items that are harder to crowdsource - tents, blankets, camping gear and toiletries - we will still take any warm clothes, shoes and waterproofs as before, but the cash raised will go towards equipment rather than food

Here is a photo of the flat in London prior to sorting all the donations:

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Update posted by Alex Manessi On Nov 03, 2015

Thank you to everyone that has supported the campaign by donating money, clothes, bedding, camping gear, first aid kits, shoes and more! The response we have got has been amazing!

We are heading over on November 14th. The original plan was to drive over by car, then rent a van and buy and prepare all the individual meal packets in France. The response has been so good that we don't have anywhere near enough space in the car to do this and will need to find a van here in London! (If you know anyone with a can going spare... :) )

We'll post another update when we return. In the meantime, thanks again for helping us pass our initial target of 400!!

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