And now for something completely different – this week’s project is supporting the social media behind Zuidas Cares as they run a donation drive collecting urgently needed warm clothes and toiletries for newly arrived refugees in the Netherlands.
Like many in the Netherlands and across Europe I’ve seen the images of people walking across this continent, taking to rubber dinghies to cross the narrow straits between Turkey and Europe, and people trapped in train stations and makeshift camps while our governments struggle. The response so far has been too little, and not co-ordinated. I think governments, NGOs and individuals have been overwhelmed by the scale of the migration.
This is the biggest forced migration of people since World War 2. Many countries are affected by conflict or war and the result is refugees/asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Syria and Somalia. (Source UNHCR).
Of those countries Syria is the biggest immediate source of refugees, and the refugees are fleeing more than four years of war. If you haven’t been following the news here’s a handy guide from BBC.
Syria has gone from being a destination country for refugees from Iraq to having about 11 million people forced from their homes. Some 7-8 million of those remain within Syria, living under conditions of war and extreme poverty. The majority of those who have left are in camps in Turkey and Lebanon.
A relatively small number are making their way to Europe, by whatever means they can.
Of course accepting a large number of people into any country creates challenges – where will they live, how will they support themselves, where will they go to school, can they live in a different culture. And it’s very normal that people experience some anxiety about the impact such a group will have in Europe.
But many many people have stepped up, saying they cannot stand by and watch people die. A group of Spanish life guards, Proactiva Open Arms, are working to pull people out of the water in Lesvos. Volunteers have been handing out water, food and clothes to refugees en route. And Danish people ashamed of their country’s official response have been transporting people to Sweden.
It seems that individuals can step up.
I’m stepping up; by supporting this donation drive for those who have made it to the Netherlands.
Please spread the word about this donation drive by; liking our Zuidas Cares Facebook page, and sharing content from it, following us on twitter and sharing that content. Tell your friends, challenge your friends to donate their coffee money for a week. Ask your family for any warm clothes that are in good condition, clean but could be spared. The Dutch winter is not kind.
This week I am donating my time to promote this. Next week I am donating whatever warm clothes and toiletries I can.
I challenge all Amsterdammers to make a donation.
If you cannot donate in person please consider donating one day’s lunch money to The Red Cross.