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Warning over refugee numbers as Cambridge residents travel to Calais

A convoy of Cambridge residents is heading to Calais this weekend taking food and a caravan as volunteers warn the refugee camp there is growing by the day.

35 people will take 8 cars on a ferry crossing to Calais on Friday for a weekend of work at the Jungle camp organised by Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group. As well as helping tidy the site and assist with local aid projects the group will be taking £1,600 worth of food to support the volunteer-run kitchens in the camp and other donated items including a laptop, a sewing machine and books on learning English as a foreign language.

thumbnail_IMG_1900The group will also be delivering a caravan which was bought and refurbished by a group of friends. Staff at the Debbie Bliss Home shop in Walthamstow were inspired by reading about previous donations of caravans which have gone from the UK to Calais recently and decided to do something similar.

Debbie Bliss, owner of the shop, said: “We raised enough money to buy, renovate and equip a caravan and it is now ready to go. We dedicated it to our friend Ishwer Sahotey, a talented , award winning filmmaker and photographer, who died let year at the age of 26. The caravan is called Esprit de Ishwer.”
Lara Brettell, Chair of CamCRAG, said: “We’re really pleased to be linking up with other groups around the country who are doing their bit to help the refugees in Calais.There is a strong network of people across the UK raising money and sending volunteers to the camp.

“Although it may not be top of the news agenda currently, the refugee crisis in Europe is bigger than ever. In Calais it is particularly precarious – there were more than 7,000 counted in the last census in July with up to 100 arriving a day. It is expected that by September the numbers may well be up to 10,000. There are 761 children there – 608 of those are unaccompanied.

“We will continue to help in any way we can for as long as these refugees need our help.”

The French authorities have announced that the ‘Jungle’ may be totally demolished in September, and there is currently nowhere for the population to be relocated to in France.

You can follow the convoy’s activities in Calais throughout the weekend on our Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/Camb4Calais

Posted on 11/08/16

Huge thanks to our latest convoy volunteers

25 volunteers from Cambridge joined our latest convoy to Calais this weekend. They spent two days tidying the camp, delivering aid and restoring shelters. If you’re interested in joining the next convoy visit the convoys webpage for all the details.

City councillor joins convoy to Calais

bigpicA Cambridge city councillor is joining the convoy to the refugee camps in Calais this weekend (July 2/3) to see the impact of recent damage and to show solidarity after the EU referendum result.

Cllr Donald Adey is an active campaigner and fundraiser on refugee issues and is already a supporter of Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group. He will be joining a convoy of 25 people organised by CamCRAG and heading to the camp known as The Jungle this weekend to help restore shelters, deliver aid and distribute food.

He hopes to share his experiences with his fellow councillors on his return and update them on the work being carried out by Cambridge residents in Calais. The city council voted recently for Cambridge to become a City of Sanctuary – a show of support from the city for refugees made homeless by civil war, torture and terrorism.

This week is Refugee Week and a series of events have been held in the city as part of the new City of Sanctuary partnership.

Cllr Adey said: “This is my second visit to Calais, but my first since I was elected onto the city council. I was elected to represent the views of my constituents, and many people locally have told me how concerned they are about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Europe as people from Syria, Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere try to find safety and shelter.

“Cambridge has responded in an amazing way to this crisis, with groups like CamCRAG and the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign being formed, fundraising events and appeals being organised and regular convoys heading out to make a real difference on the ground.

“The result of the EU Referendum was for many a sign that there is a real fear about immigration across the UK. It is now  vital that we show those in this desperate situation that we will continue to do all we can to help them. They don’t want to live on a muddy piece of wasteland in Northern France, they don’t even want to live in the UK – they want to live in their home countries in safety, but for most that is just not possible.”

On his first visit to Calais Cllr Adey was representing St Columba’s Church in Cambridge, where he chairs their World Mission Group.

Recently tensions between different groups and overcrowding in the camp resulted in fire and violence breaking out. Hundreds were left without shelter and the incident showed just how inhumane the conditions are in The Jungle. CamCRAG immediately launched an emergency appeal and £750, donated by supporters, will be given to trusted organisations in the camp helping to restore shelters.

Posted on 27/06/16

Cambridge celebrates Refugee Week

Refugee weekCambridge will come together to celebrate the contributions that refugees make to British society during this year’s Refugee Week, 20-26 June. Refugee Week is a yearly initiative celebrated around World Refugee Day, which this year is going to be held on 20 June. The programme includes film screenings, panel discussions, exhibitions and theatre plays and is organized by several Cambridge-based organizations refugee campaigns and the City Council. In an emergency appeal, Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group is collecting donations to rebuild parts of the refugee camp in Calais, which were recently destroyed by a fire.

Oscar Gillespie, councillor for Market Ward and member of the Cambridge City of Sanctuary steering group says: “Refugee Week has always been about showing how refugees enrich society in the UK. Telling their stories will be in the focus of this year’s celebrations. The response of the citizens of Cambridge to the current refugee crisis has been amazing, and we are proud to showcase Cambridge as a place of sanctuary and welcome for those fleeing war and persecution.”

Posted on 13/06/16

Play to raise money for CamCRAG

A local playwrite is telling the story of the Calais refugee at The Junction in July.

Steve Walters is visiting the camp and will write four acts, to be performed over four nights, at the Hotbed Theatre Festival starting on Thursday July 7.

All the proceeds will go to support CamCRAG.

Posted on 13/06/16

EMERGENCY APPEAL – please share and donate if you can

Burnt campA few days ago violence erupted in the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle. This resulted in a fire which burnt down hundreds of shelters and left around 1,000 people homeless.
The violence occurred after tensions between different groups erupted. Most of those in the camp are fleeing civil war and tyranny in the Middle East and Africa. Their desperate situation and an overcrowded camp without proper facilities and services led to this tragedy. This illustrates just how unsafe and inhumane it is to treat human beings who are seeking shelter and safety in this way.
We must respond with kindness and compassion. We are taking an initial load of donated items to Calais. But we also need to replace the shelters which were destroyed and provide a basic level of accommodation for those affected.
We have built good working relationships with the agencies and volunteer groups on the ground in Calais and this money will be donated to those trusted groups who are helping to respond to this incident.

Donation page – https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/CamCRAG-emergency

Posted on 29/05/16

Bring us your donated items on June 25

12033011_697555233605_193925835594826085_nOn June 25th Castle Street Methodist Church will be open with volunteers on hand to take donated items.

The event will run from 10am to 3pm and clothes and food will be accepted. It is essential that we only collect the items needed in the camps – volunteers there are struggling to sort and store unwanted items.

We always appreciate everyone’s generosity, but please do not bring unwanted items along, as we do not have the space to store them.

Posted 26/05/16

Techfugees launches in Cambridge

Techfugees Cambridge will be launched  on Saturday July 2. Techfugees is a growing international network of tech developers, NGOs and related practitioners working to develop technology to help refugees.

This first Cambridge event will focus on the theme of refugee camps, with consideration given to how we can improve internet/local network connectivity, data security & privacy and personal empowerment (improving access to training/education/jobs).

The conference will bring together developers, designers, refugees and NGOs in a collaborative process to identify and plan solutions to some of the problems which threaten the safety of refugees.

The conference runs from 10am – 5pm at Mills and Reeve, Botanic House, 98-100 Hills Road, Cambridge.

Posted 26/05/16

Refugee event for Sawston

On Saturday 28th May there will be a Refugee Information Evening at Sawston Free Church.

Glenys Newton award winning storyteller, will talk about her work volunteering in Calais, Dunkirk and the Isle of Lesvos, and of the people that she has met along the way. Eddie Stadnik Chief Officer at Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum, and representing Cambridge City of Sanctuary, will talk about the work of CECF in Cambridge to support refugees and asylum seekers. Gill Ragsdale member of Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group and Schools of Sanctuary, will talk about her volunteering work in both Calais and Cambridge schools. Come along to find out more about the refugee situation and what you can do to help.

The event starts at at 7.30pm.

Filmmaker follows latest convoy

Filmmaker Luke Pierce joined CamCRAG’s most recent convoy to capture the volunteers bringing food and aid to refugees at the camps in Calais and Dunkirk. Here is his powerful film, a must see for anyone who wants to understand our work and why we make these vital regular trips. Please share this with friends and family.

Dubs amendment on refugee children voted down

We’re extremely disappointed that the Dubs amendment to allow 3,000 vulnerable children into the UK has been defeated. This was a chance for this Government to show real compassion and humanity towards innocent children whose lives have been torn apart by war and terrorism.

We were pleased that Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner supported the amendment. However, despite speaking at our recent Guildhall event and making public statements of support for refugees and on the issue of unaccompanied minors in particular, South Cambs MP Heidi Allen chose to abstain in the Commons vote. Heidi has written to explain her position on her website here. Even more disappointingly, South East Cambs MP Lucy Frazer voted to reject the amendment.

Following the vote the Immigration bill was again sent back to the Commons by the House of Lords, this time with the specific figure of 3,000 children removed. The Commons will now debate the new amendment which requires ministers to arrange the relocation of children who have made it to Europe into the UK.

£10,000 raised at an amazing evening at the Guildhall

(Thank you to Distant Cloud photography for the video!)

We had a fantastic event at the Guildhall on Friday April 15 – hundreds of people made a stand for refugees in the city. Click here for the full story and images of the day.

If you couldn’t make it you can play your part by donating to the online appeal here.

CamCRAG bringing caravans to Calais

caravan smallCamCRAG volunteers heading to Calais this weekend (April 9/10) will be taking a caravan to donate to vulnerable refugees in the camp.

It’s part of work CamCRAG have been doing in cooperation with Jungle Canopy over the past month to supply caravans to the Jungle camp in Calais. These are currently being targeted for young unaccompanied minors who are otherwise lost between the cracks of the support services and can end up at the behest of traffickers – families with young children are also catered for. Supplying them with a caravan with a door that can be locked from the inside and the outside at least provides them with a point of stability.

The latest situation in Calais

Since our last convoy there has been a great deal of action in Calais. Things are changing on the ground quickly and we are monitoring what is happening to ensure we can support the refugees in the most effective way possible.

Our next convoy will be on April 9th and 10th – check here or join our Facebook group to keep updated on the continuing situation.

Riot police enter The Jungle

CamCRAG volunteers and supporters have been left shocked and saddened by the scenes unfolding in the Calais refugee camp, known at The Jungle, today (Feb 29).

Tear gas has been used and water cannons have been let off as French riot police have entered the site, home to many hundreds of people displaced by war, torture and oppression. According to the BBC authorities say 1,000 people at the camp are to be evicted, however aid agencies on the ground have put the figure higher.

Our latest convoy has only just returned from the camp where we bought and donated food paid for by the kindness and generosity of Cambridge people. Our group, and many others like ours, was set up because we believe people who have been forced to flee their homeland and have made it to our doorstep to seek safety and shelter deserve to be treated with compassion and humanity.

Forced eviction, destruction of shelters, tear gas and riot police are not a compassionate and humane response to a humanitarian crisis.

We will continue to support refugees in Northern France with connections to the UK in whatever way we can. And we will be asking our local MPs to raise this issue with their leaders. The UK cannot not turn a blind eye to this problem simply because there is 20 miles of seawater between them and us.

February convoy provides food from Cambridge

The latest convoy to Calais has just returned from a weekend at The Jungle in Calais and Grand Synthe in Dunkirk.

During the trip volunteers bought much needed food and supplies using £1,200 donated by generous Cambridge residents through our recent appeal. These were donated to the Calais Kitchens who aim to provide at least one hot meal a day for the refugees at the camp,

Here’s some images from the trip.

Can you help raise £10,000 for refugees?

We’re teaming up with our friends at the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign to organise a high profile event at the Guildhall in Cambridge on April 15th.

The event will see speakers, live music, food and more all taking place in the centre of the city to raise funds and awareness. We really want to make this event a success so we’re looking for some passionate volunteers to get involved.

Live music and jumble sale to raise funds for refugees

There’s two fantastic fundraising events lined up in March to help support our convoys to Calais.

On Friday March 4th some of the local music scene’s finest will take to the stage at The Cornerhouse on Newmarket Road from 7pm for a fundraising gig.

Then On Saturday March 5th at Castle Street Methodist Church you can pick up a bargain at a fundraising jumble sale from 12.30-3.30pm.

February food appeal launched – help us raise £1,000 to feed the people of Calais (PLEASE NOTE, THIS APPEAL HAS NOW ENDED)

Our next convoy will be heading to Calais on the weekend of February 27/28. Instead of taking donated clothing and food as we have done previously , this time we have decided to raise money which we will spend locally on food for the refugees at the camp.

We are aiming to raise £1,000. Please click on the link below to visit our appeal page, give generously and share on social media to help us reach our target.

Appeal pic

With so many people arriving from war torn areas having travelled hundreds of miles and with no support from official agencies, the provision of hot, healthy food is vital.

The food we buy with the money raised through this appeal will be given to Calais Kitchens – an umbrella group covering all the volunteer kitchens on the camp which has the aim of making sure everyone there can get at least one hot meal a day.

There is now a large kitchen in the L’Auberge/Help Refugees warehouse built by members of The Refugee Community Kitchen from where they feed the volunteers and make 1000 meals per day for people in the Calais camp. They also distribute food to the Calais and Dunkirk camps to enable the community kitchens there to feed some 1100 people daily.

We hope to be able to take physical donations again in the future but the logistics of collecting, sorting and storing them is difficult. It is important that we send only things that are actually needed in Calais and Dunkirk. There is limited storage there and a lot of volunteer time is spent sorting through donations that aren’t appropriate and sending them back to the UK.

Thank you to the volunteers on our latest convoy

We would like to say a huge thank you to the volunteers who joined us on the trip to Calais on our latest convoy (23/24 Jan).

The convoy members helped making food, distributing aid and improving conditions at the camp. Some of our supporters also visited a newer refugee camp which has sprung up nearby at Dunkirk. The convoy’s trip coincided with a visit from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But the weekend also saw media reports of protests and attempts to storm the port – none of our volunteers were connected to these incidents and all have returned safe and well.

If you would like to attend the next convoy please read more and fill in the form available on our convoys page

First Cambridge convoy of 2016 heads to Calais

IMG_5630The first convoy of the year from Cambridge is heading to the Calais refugee camp this weekend (Jan 23/24).

The convoy, organised by Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group, will see 42 volunteers in ten cars and a van take the ferry across the channel to spend two days building shelters, maintaining the camp and distributing food and clothes. The convoy members will also be taking items generously donated by the people of Cambridge including tents, sleeping bags and winter coats and shoes.

Lara Brettell, CamCRAG chair, said: “In the six months since our group was set up we have seen overwhelming support from the people of Cambridge.

“Moved by the plight of the thousands of refugees fleeing war torn areas in the hope of finding safety and shelter they have donated money, collected supplies and given their time. Those who are going to Calais this weekend will be working hard in challenging conditions – and they’ll be making a real difference to the camp’s residents.

“With freezing conditions, a lack of basic amenities and no help from the local authorities, the men, women and children at Calais are in a terrible situation. Bringing them aid, friendship and support is the most civilised response to this crisis.”

Winter appeal success

Thanks to the amazing generosity of our supporters in Cambridge and further afield we have reached our target of £5,000.

We launched our Winter appeal in early December and since then people have donated, held events, spread the word and rallied to the cause. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has given money, it will really help us to provide shelter, food and hope to the refugees in Calais.

The money will be used to support our convoys which are already being planned for the rest of 2016, and also to respond to urgent issues in the camp which require funds.

We want to continue  raising as much as we can so we do even more to alleviate this humanitarian crisis so we will be organising fundraising events in the coming weeks and months. If you have fundraising experience and you would like to help, please get in touch.

new appeal square

Fundraising success in 2015

In 2015 the people of Cambridge stepped up to help refugees from Syria, Sudan, Eritrea and other war torn countries. CamCRAG was set up in September and since then many people have helped by volunteering to go on convoys to Calais, by giving money, and by fundraising to support the ongoing work.

As well as a comedy night at the Portland Arms and a jumble sale which together raised £1,600, supporters have organised jam sales, speaker evenings, gigs, stalls and fundraising Christmas cards and we have had two online appeals. We have received more than £4,500 in donations from the amazingly generous people of Cambridgeshire.

So how has this money been spent? £4,500 has been spent on building materials for shelters at the camp in Calais as well as lanterns, generators, sleeping bags and tents – this includes £2,500 which was administered by the French charity L’auberge des Migrants. £1,500 was spent on ferry tickets, fuel and others costs associated with five convoys with more than 60 volunteers. And £80 was spent on administrative costs.

Christmas cards for refugees

12299155_1575797925992772_6083503059849009783_n

A local artist has created some beautiful cards to help us raise funds this Christmas. They are £1 each or 5 for £4.50. If you want to buy some to give this Christmas then please email us at camb4calaisfundraising@gmail.com and we can ether post them to you (for 50p) or you can arrange to collect them from the Box Cafe on Norfolk Street. Thank you to Sadi Soul Arts for the wonderful designs, visit the wesbite here sadisoularts.com

Mill Road Winter Fair success

Thank you to everyone who came along to our joint stand with our friends Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign at the Mill Road Winter Fair at the weekend.

We launched our Winter Appeal (see below), we sold our new Christmas cards and we met lots of fantastic people keen to help the refugees in Calais. Overall we raised more than £400!

Here’s some images from the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

February food appeal launched – help us raise £1,000 to feed the people of Calais (PLEASE NOTE, THIS APPEAL HAS NOW ENDED)

Our next convoy will be heading to Calais on the weekend of February 27/28. Instead of taking donated clothing and food as we have done previously , this time we have decided to raise money which we will spend locally on food for the refugees at the camp.

We are aiming to raise £1,000. Please click on the link below to visit our appeal page, give generously and share on social media to help us reach our target.

Appeal pic

With so many people arriving from war torn areas having travelled hundreds of miles and with no support from official agencies, the provision of hot, healthy food is vital.

The food we buy with the money raised through this appeal will be given to Calais Kitchens – an umbrella group covering all the volunteer kitchens on the camp which has the aim of making sure everyone there can get at least one hot meal a day.

There is now a large kitchen in the L’Auberge/Help Refugees warehouse built by members of The Refugee Community Kitchen from where they feed the volunteers and make 1000 meals per day for people in the Calais camp. They also distribute food to the Calais and Dunkirk camps to enable the community kitchens there to feed some 1100 people daily.

We hope to be able to take physical donations again in the future but the logistics of collecting, sorting and storing them is difficult. It is important that we send only things that are actually needed in Calais and Dunkirk. There is limited storage there and a lot of volunteer time is spent sorting through donations that aren’t appropriate and sending them back to the UK.

Thank you to the volunteers on our latest convoy

We would like to say a huge thank you to the volunteers who joined us on the trip to Calais on our latest convoy (23/24 Jan).

The convoy members helped making food, distributing aid and improving conditions at the camp. Some of our supporters also visited a newer refugee camp which has sprung up nearby at Dunkirk. The convoy’s trip coincided with a visit from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But the weekend also saw media reports of protests and attempts to storm the port – none of our volunteers were connected to these incidents and all have returned safe and well.

If you would like to attend the next convoy please read more and fill in the form available on our convoys page

First Cambridge convoy of 2016 heads to Calais

IMG_5630The first convoy of the year from Cambridge is heading to the Calais refugee camp this weekend (Jan 23/24).

The convoy, organised by Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group, will see 42 volunteers in ten cars and a van take the ferry across the channel to spend two days building shelters, maintaining the camp and distributing food and clothes. The convoy members will also be taking items generously donated by the people of Cambridge including tents, sleeping bags and winter coats and shoes.

Lara Brettell, CamCRAG chair, said: “In the six months since our group was set up we have seen overwhelming support from the people of Cambridge.

“Moved by the plight of the thousands of refugees fleeing war torn areas in the hope of finding safety and shelter they have donated money, collected supplies and given their time. Those who are going to Calais this weekend will be working hard in challenging conditions – and they’ll be making a real difference to the camp’s residents.

“With freezing conditions, a lack of basic amenities and no help from the local authorities, the men, women and children at Calais are in a terrible situation. Bringing them aid, friendship and support is the most civilised response to this crisis.”

Mill Road Winter Fair

received_961077713949932Come along to the Mill Road Winter Fair this Saturday (Dec 5) to meet our volunteers and find out how you can help the Calais refugees. We will be sharing our stand with our friends from the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign, just look out for our banner, and say hello. There will be Christmas cards for sale and you can have your picture taken to show your support for refugees. See you there!

Schoolgirls sleepout for refugees

IMG_0114A group of Cambridge schoolgirls have slept out in the open to raise funds for refugees.

The five youngsters at St Matthew’s Primary School aged nine and ten spent the night in a tent and raised £1,000 in sponsorship from friends and family. They have chosen to spend the money on sleeping bags for refugees from Syria, Sudan and other war torn countries elsewhere based in Calais, as well as food parcels.

Read the full story here

Convoy ready to head out this weekend!

This weekend (Nov 28/29) will see 28 people in six cars and one van heading out to Calais to take supplies and help build shelters.

We are taking generators, tarpaulins, medicines, blankets, wind up lamps and much more – all made possible by the kind donations from our supporters. Thank you!

WP_20151126_19_53_44_Pro
A big thank you from the CamCRAG committee!

Follow the journey on Twitter – https://twitter.com/Camb4Calais – and check here on on the Facebook group for reports and pictures of the trip.

Clothes sale – Sat Nov 28th

We have had lots of good quality clothes donated to the group which are not suitable to go to Calais, so we’ll be holding a clothes sale on Saturday November 28th to raise funds.image1

Come along to the Box Cafe on Norfolk Street in Cambridge between 3pm and 6pm and pick up a bargain. You can also chat to our volunteers about the group and our work.

Comedy for Calais

Thank you to everyone who came to our comedy night on Monday November 16. We had a full house for some great comedians who gave up their time for free, in the Portland Arms who kindly let us use their venue without charge. We managed to raise £750 to support our convoys and help us buy generators for the people in Calais – thank you Cambridge!

Clothes sort

Thanks to everyone who came along to help sort donated clothes at the Signal Box on Saturday (Nov 14). This was to clear a backlog of donations and for the time being we are no longer collecting. These will now go to the CalAid warehouse before being distributed in Calais.

Signal Box clothes sort
Signal Box clothes sort