The majority of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa make their first landing on European soil on the Aegean islands of Greece.
CamCRAG does not currently organise convoys to Greece. However several people from Cambridge have volunteered to help with refugee aid efforts there including members of our committee.
We’re able to offer information and share contacts with anyone locally who is considering going to Greece. Just email us on email@example.com and we can arrange a chat. We may also be able to link you up with others heading out there.
Our committee members Sarah and Lara recently visited three refugee projects in Greece, you can read their report here.
The three main projects we have had contact with are,
- Help Refugees’ Thessaloniki warehouse – click for info
- Refugee Support at Alexandreia camp – click for info
- CalAid’s warehouse in Ioannina – click for info
You can also,
- Visit greecevol.info to read about the latest projects
- Join the Information Point for Greece Volunteers Facebook group to link up with other volunteers
- Read the authoritative Greece Volunteers Info Doc for everything you need to know
If you have been to Greece or are planning to go and would like to meet others locally then please get in touch so we can link you up. And if you would like to write a blog post based on your experiences to help inspire others then we’d love to hear from you.
After the closure of the Jungle refugee camp in Calais the number of refugees arriving in Paris has grown.
There are various projects and groups working in Paris. While we are not currently organising convoys to Paris, CamCRAG volunteers have worked in Paris and we are able to offer information to anyone looking to travel there.
Keith Hatton and Jennie Corbett from our convoy planning team recently spent a weekend volunteering at the refugee centre run by Utopia 56. You can read their report, with images, below.
To volunteer with Utopia 56 you will need to register as a member on their website here – www.utopia56.com/en/user/register. And if you would like more information please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paris volunteering report
Friday, 10 March
- Drive from Cambridge to Folkestone
- Channel Tunnel to Calais
- Drive from Calais to Paris
Saturday 11 March
- Welcome and induction by Utopia 56 at Paris Nord Humanitarian Centre, Porte de la Chapelle
- Clothes sorting
- Litter picking, collection of dirty/wet bedding and non-food items needs assessment in areas surrounding camp, where refugees were living homeless
- Assistance with evening food distribution to homeless refugees.
Sunday 12 March
- Clothes distribution in camp (personal shopping)
- Washing of dirty bedding and clothing for redistribution
- Clothing sort
Monday 13 March
- Travel back to Cambridge (via Channel Tunnel)
At Porte de la Chapelle in Northern Paris, Utopia56 provide support in the form of clothing sorting, cleaning and distribution, and outreach at a refugee welcome centre (or ‘humanitarian centre’), as well as in the streets nearby. The centre is managed by EMMAÜS Solidarité, and funded by the government. It’s located in a converted warehouse, with containers inside for sleeping, etc. There is also some outdoor space. Utopia have been there for more than 5 months.
The centre is for men only, who stay there for up to 10 days upon entering the asylum system, while awaiting their transfer to a more long-term CAO (Centre d’accueil et d’orientation). The men sleep and eat there, and move about freely, though there seemed to be limited other activities on offer. It is the only such centre in Paris, though with the upcoming elections Utopia staff were worried about continued funding.
There is also a separate space (‘the bubble’, pictured)
within the same complex which is also run by EMMAUS and serves as a day centre for up to 40 refugees at any one time, who can’t access the welcome centre (e.g. women, children and families) and those who are waiting to get in. There is also health centre for the refugees staying in the centre.
There is a very large backlog of refugees waiting to enter the centre, and they can be seen milling around outside the entrance and sleeping under the motorway overpasses nearby. Utopia does some outreach to these refugees, distributing bedding, clothes and toiletries and also work with other small organisations to serve food (breakfast and dinner) to those living around the centre.
Over the two days we did a range of activities both inside the centre and outside in the surrounding area.
Clothes distribution: Utopia has a great method of distributing clothes to the residents of the centre, using a ‘personal shopper’ method. Each refugee has a kind of ration card which allows them two ‘asks’ from the shop of donated clothes (with each ‘ask’ including whatever multiple items needed, within limits). Different volunteers are behind the counter and pick out clothes and size requested for them to choose from, according to taste. This seems to be quite an enjoyable activity for many of the refugees, though also frustrating as we often don’t have the right size or type of clothing and quality is mixed.
Jobs also included sorting clothes donations in the small clothes storage/sorting room, washing and drying clothes and washing dirty bedding and clothes collected from the streets.
On Saturday we went out with a small team to pick litter and remove rotting/soggy bedding from some of the places people were sleeping in the surrounding areas. This was a very physically challenging and dirty job. It would certainly have been distressing for some as the conditions were dire. We also took note of clothing needs from the refugees we encountered.
The range of work for short term volunteers is wide and varied, and very much dependent on the particular need or the day (and number of volunteers). Some of the other activities mentioned to us as fairly regular were escorting refugees to hospital, going out in van to collect donations and collecting soiled bedding from surrounding streets for washing/decontamination.