“We need food, water and clothing but we don’t want it. What we want is to be recognised as humans and treated as such.” (Calais Refugee)
A consistent feature throughout this summers news has been the humanitarian crisis surrounding refugees fleeing war torn countries to find a better life in Europe. Calais has very much been the epicentre for much of the imagery we have seen of people running from police, climbing over fences and hiding in the back of vehicles.
The horrific image of a young Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach went viral online and sparked a global cry to help the refugees. Since the release of the tragic image, refugees have been accepted in European countries such as Germany and Austria. It is however, important not to forget the refugees of Calais, who are in a vastly different to those in mainland Europe.
Making A Difference
This week, Imam Adam Kelwick, an Imam and Muslim chaplain from Liverpool took the courageous step to travel to Calais himself and help the people in these jungle like camps. He posted on his Facebook page, which has been followed greatly by all interested in the refugee crisis the following status:
“Right… I’m going to Calais, God willing and I need your help.
I’ve been refelcting about who is responsible for the current refugee crisis and on the day of judgement I won’t be responsible for the actions (or lack thereof) of the EU or the GCC, I will be asked about what I did though!”
The response to his decision to travel to Calais has been tremendous, especially in the city of Liverpool.
There are thousands of refugees without food, water and shelter – Imam Adam needed as many tents he could pack into his car, what resulted was a great act of kindness. The care manager in Tesco, donated boxes of airbeds, toys, toiletries and clothes.
Imam Adam shared his joy and appreciation of the support received from the community with his Facebook followersm
“Went into the local supermarket and told them about the trip to Calais tomorrow and asked if they could give me a discount on some tents. Instead, Shelly the community care manager of Tesco Park Road decided to donate boxes and boxes of airbeds, toys, toiletries, clothes and sweets free of charge. She also offered for some volunteers to pack bags there and raise funds for a future trip!”
This post on Facebook went viral, it has amassed over 57’000 likes & 10’000 shares.
Imam Kelwick arrived in Calais with some volunteers, he received over £7,000 in donations in just over two days of planning his trip. Once the Imam had arrived in Calais, it was clear to see the poor conditions the refugees were living in and the lack of resources available was highlighted greatly by the Imam. Due to the increased media attention at the time of European countries taking in thousands of refugees, the situation in Calais had taken a back seat. Imam Adam recaptured some of the media attention back onto Calais, his Facebook post read:
“We have just returned from ‘the jungle’. We went deep in to what looked like some of the poorest parts of the world I’ve ever visited, I had to remind myself I was in Europe in 2015. People there were fleeing wars from Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria and many other countries.
This is a summary of the ‘help’ they are receiving:
– 3 hour queue for 1 meal per day (yes, only ONE!!!!).
– 2 hour queue for a six minute shower
– 6 hour queue to receive one painkiller or one anti-biotic capsule.
– 20 toilets for the whole male members of the camp (of about 3000 people)
– The charities on the ground here are also struggling and don’t distribute food, clothing or supplies inside the jungle in any systematic way, rather they distribute from a church which is a very long distance away or drop things off at the perimeter of the jungle and it becomes chaotic with people rushing to snatch whatever they can and many don’t receive anything.
– Conditions for women and children are a little better (Although I wouldn’t wish upon any human I know.) They stay in a gated camp some have basic rooms in a run down building and some camp out around the building. No men are allowed in and so our friend Jen has been invited in tomorrow and we’ll put updates here in sha Allah.
In the meantime, encourage everyone you know to come down and help in any way they can. We are going to find out more about the camp tomorrow and hopefully meet some of the charity workers based here. We will also try and get a map of the jungle, recognise key people there and produce a list of the things needed the most from the perspective of the refugees themselves.
We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow in sha Allah.”
The crisis these refugees are facing seemed to increase the longer Imam Adam spent there. There were more camps discovered than originally expected which were in even worse conditions as the people didn’t have any toiletries. The Imam’s strategy was to use the Mosques as centre hub’s to distribute clothes, food and water, to ensure a smooth process of distribution.
Imam Adam and the volunteers were not the only ones helping the refugees in Calais. There was a French charity on the ground also, who the Imam worked with to ensure the refugees were taken care of as best as possible as the Imam said, “Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean“.
Volunteers from Holland were also in Calais, there was great cooperation on the ground as all were striving towards one aim: to help.
Once Imam Adam returned to Liverpool, he made it clear that his work in helping the refugees in Calais was not over & plans to return to help the people, this time with greater support and resources. He said,
“Arrived back in Liverpool this morning, just done a TV interview and now driving to Bradford to meet the head of a respected international charity to launch an emergency project for the Calais camps. The awareness raised and support is phenomenal!
I don’t intend to stay here long, I’m planning to return to Calais ASAP after some strategic planning over here and then stay there until everybody’s basic needs are met and hopefully these horrible camps are shut down and the people there get back their dignity and are treated like human beings”
He went on to add,
“I hope to get back to Calais as soon as I can and act as a point of contact and a source of help and support for all those coming to contribute whether they are individuals, groups, conveys or charities. I intend on staying there until the situation is solved, God willing. We hope to release a guide which will explain some basics about the camp and include lists of things needed and not needed”.
Imams Online continues to support the fantastic work being undertaken by Imam Adam Kelwick. This work is what true Islamic leadership is all about, working towards helping the those in need, whoever and wherever they are, be they Muslim or not. May Allah support and reward all his efforts.
Link here to Adam Kelwick’s project: https://www.justgiving.com/path-of-mercy1/