Refugee aid team tells of horror

October 30 2015

REFUGEES camping in northern France are living the “worst nightmare imaginable”, says a local woman who has witnessed their situation, first-hand.

REFUGEES camping in northern France are living the “worst nightmare imaginable”, says a local woman who has witnessed their situation, first-hand.

Imogen McIntosh, has just returned from a week at one of the smaller camps outside of Calais, delivering much-needed supplies to refugees.

The mum-of-three was there as part of Aid Box Convoy (ABC) – a group she co-founded, alongside friends Sam Crossley and Joby Andrews.

With the help of volunteers, which included Imogen’s husband and sister, and almost £6,000 donated through their JustGiving page, the trio spent the week handing out over 200 aid boxes containing various items – including stoves, torches, food, toiletries, a tin opener and warm clothes – 500 tents, sleeping bags and other essentials.

They also took wood for fuel and materials for shelter-building, donated by the Bristol graffiti artist Banksy following the closure of his successful Dismaland in Weston-super-Mare.

However, when the group began to erect the shelters for refugees to cook, socialise and stay dry, they were informed by police that their equipment would be confiscated if they continued building.

Another high profile supporter of ABC is Bristol-based arts and music show group Arcadia, which donated a lorry and driver to the mission.

According to Imogen, there were over 1,500 people seeking refuge at the campsite, with around 50 arriving each night.

“The situation there is just absolutely dyer,” says Imogen. “The camp is ridden with mice and rats; there’s only one water tap; showers are only open for two hours each day; men are having to wear women’s sandals because they have no shoes. These people – professionals, students, mothers, fathers and kids – are living the worst nightmare imaginable. And conditions are likely to get considerably worse with winter on the doorstep.”

Imogen adds that the majority of the refugees at the campsite are young men, aged 16 to 25, fleeing their home countries because they are a target for terror groups. She says that they have been arriving in droves with no shoes, starving and delirious.

Heavily pregnant women – one of which was five days overdue – are also living in these conditions.

Imogen felt moved to help refugees after seeing the photograph of the boy floating in the sea, and hearing the horror stories of people trying to get over to Europe.

“After seeing the news coverage, I thought to myself, ‘this is really real, I need to do something’. We found that there were camps in northern France that literally had nothing, so we decided to direct our attention towards the smaller camps. We have since decided to focus our energies on the camp we visited, and to fight for it to be made safer. These people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Since returning home, shell-shocked and emotional, Imogen has received heartfelt messages from refugees at the campsite, thanking the team of volunteers for their efforts.

The convoy will be heading back out to the campsite at the beginning of November to distribute more supplies and to hold a strategy meeting with the local mayor and welfare officers. They are calling on the public to donate essentials to the Lazy Dog pub by October 30. Tents, sleeping bags, and men’s shoes are in particular demand. Men’s shoes need to be waterproof walking boots or wellies.

To donate to the group’s efforts, visit their JustGiving page: crowdfunding.justgiving.com/aidboxesbristoltoeurope. Tickets are also now on sale for the Boomtown Winter Gathering on November 21 at Lakota in Stokes Croft, which will be raising vital funds to support the effort.

For more information about ABC, visit their Facebook page ‘Aid Box Convoy – Bristol to Refugees’.

URGENT APPEAL FOR VOLUNTEERS

Aid Box Convoy is looking for volunteers. Whether it’s joining the group on aid trips to Europe, or working in the UK, ABC needs your help. For more information and to register your interest, email: aidboxconvoy@gmail.com. State your name, telephone number, availability, and how you are interested in helping.

Refugee camp