Local councillors and members of the community are uniting in efforts to tackle the refugee crisis.
Although the present humanitarian crisis has been unfolding for several years, images emerging last week finally caught the world’s attention - and the local community has assembled to take action.
Many locals are sending supplies to Calais, which is currently hosting several thousand people who have fled conflict in their homelands, and councillors are playing their part, too, with events such as that being hosted by Stephen Moutray MLA. He is holding a coffee morning on Friday at the Jethro Centre from 10:30am to 12:30pm.
“I recognise that this is a humanitarian crisis, and it is our duty to respond,” he explained. “I invite everyone to come along and support this very worthy cause. I will be donating all money raised to Tearfund, who have set up a new Emergency Fund to bring desperately needed help and support.”
Mr Moutray has also set up a JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/sw-moutray
This past week has seen a surge in the purchase of tents and toiletries, with a number of people grouping together to send supplies to refugees in Calais. Demonstrating the power of social media, Craigavon Calais Refugee Solidarity set up a Facebook group last Thursday and quickly acquired 500 members. A list of ‘essential items’ was uploaded to the page, and drop-off points established in Lurgan.
Mel Wiggins, Project Co-ordinator of Freedom Acts, has been heavily involved with the group and recruiting help at the drop-off locations:
“We have been so encouraged by the response from local community members and can’t quite believe the support that has been pouring in with donations, voluntary time, and offers of help - it has been the power of social media at its best. It heartens us to see a community and business sector driven by compassion, without discrimination, and we are so glad to be able to show love. Our donations and supplies will be packed onto a ship heading to Calais from Cork on the 29th/30th of September. We need to get aid to our drop-off locations as soon as possible so we can sort, pack and have them ready for transport, and have set a cut off date for September 26.”
Antigua Furnishings will be open from 9am-5pm on Monday to Saturday; Jethro Centre from 9am-9pm on Monday to Friday; and Mount Zion House from 9am-5:30pm from Monday to Friday, to receive items. SDLP Deputy Leader Dolores Kelly MLA, is accepting donations at her William St office from 9am-5pm on Monday to Thursday and 9am-4pm on Friday.
Mrs Kelly commented, “We have had a fantastic response with people from all walks of life donating various items towards the humanitarian crisis. The generosity and kindness of local people is very heart-warming.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Keith Haughian also commended local efforts: “Once again the people of Lurgan are showing their compassionate nature. We have witnessed the human tragedy that has befallen the people of Syria, the wider Middle East and Africa. This is a humanitarian crisis and we in the developed nations have a moral duty to help those in need. Few people know more about forced emigration than the Irish; our people continue to leave this island in search of economic opportunities across the globe and we should be mindful to treat those who come here as we would wish to be treated ourselves.
“In conjunction with St Peter’s Parish and Saint Vincent de Paul, we have organised for the parish hall to be open on Wednesday 16th from 7am-7pm for drop-off. In the interim period, people can use the facilities at the Ozanam centre on William St to leave items. I urge that only items needed are left, and that they are properly labelled. Many charities are keen on financial donations - contact the Red Cross or Trocaire for details.”