Refugee crisis: what can you do to help?

guardian_logo1Guardian: From donating to a charity to volunteering – here is a guide to some of the practical ways that individuals can contribute

The shocking image of a boy who drowned trying to flee the war in Syria has prompted calls for governments to do more to tackle the refugee crisis, but what can individual citizens do to help?

So far Germany has put other nations to shame with plans to take 800,000 asylum seekers this year. There has also been a series of impressive voluntary campaigns and gestures, from Refugees Welcome – a scheme for sharing homes with those fleeing conflict and persecution described as ”an Airbnb for refugees” – to a professional football club fielding a third team made up entirely of refugees.

By contrast the response of the British media has been characterised by fear rather than compassion, but there are plenty of ways that individuals can offer support. We want to hear about how you’ve helped those seeking asylum. But in the meantime, here’s a guide about some of the ways you can contribute.

Give Money

A number of charities and non-governmental organisations have opened appeals specifically aimed at helping the plight of refugees. Various organisations spell out exactly what a specific donation could provide. Here’s a sample:

  • Migrant Offshore Aid Station: The charity which runs independent rescue boats to rescue migrants at risk of drowning has seen a huge spike in donations since pictures of the drowned Syrian boy emerged.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières: The humanitarian agency has three rescue ships in the Mediterranean, on Tuesday alone they rescued 1,658 people in its biggest day of operations.
  • Aylan Kurdi Fund: A specific fund named in honour of the drowned boy was set up within 24 hours of the circulation photographs of his body emerging. All proceeds will go to the humanitarian agency Hand in Hand for Syria.
  • Refugee Council: A donation of £100 could pay for the education and travel for two children for a week.
  • Unicef: The UN’s children’s charity is providing life-saving supplies such as clean water, medicine and psychological support. It says a donation of £9 could provide an emergency water kit for a family.
  • Save the Children: It says a donation of £50 could buy two hygiene kits including soap, towels and toothbrushes.
  • British Red Cross: A donation of £30 could buy 28 mats to help Syria refugees cope with the cold.
  • Islamic Relief: Three families could be fed for a month on a donation of £210, the charity says.
  • The crowdfunding website Just Giving has a list of specific appeals for migrants in Calais. It includes one of students trying to raise £750 to buy mobile phones, footballs, camping equipment, dictionaries, storage boxes, sanitary items and waterproof clothing.
  • The UNHCR is running camps, providing shelter and aid to refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, as well as helping refugees across Europe.

Other Donations

It is not only cash that can help.

  • Refugee Action is offering to take old cars as donations. It says the last scrap car it took raised £126 for refugees. It is also looking for old mobile phones and even printer cartridges.
  • A Facebook group Music Against Borders is looking for musical instruments for migrant musicians in Calais.
  • Teacher Mary Jones is looking for donations of books for her Jungle Bookslibrary named after the Calais migrant camp.
  • The grass roots campaign Calais Action is urging supporters to donate in any way they can. It has put together a map of drop-off and collection zones.

Aylan Kurdi was Kurdish from Kobani in Syria.  The Kurdish Red Crescent is active there, and donations can be made here:

Heyva Sor

Aid group urges Britons not to drive to Calais after convoy situation

Organiser of grassroots campaign at makeshift camp asks Britons to donate through Calaid instead after Belgian private convoy causes disruption

Aid piled up in a distribution centre in Calais.

One volunteer organisation working with migrants stranded in Calais is urging Britons not to drive to the French port after reports of a disruption following the spontaneous arrival of a convoy of aid.

Hundreds of aid initiatives have sprung up across Europe in the past 48 hours in response to the deepening refugee crisis and the shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach.

But after a convoy of Belgian volunteers sparked a disruption on Friday, James Fisher, the organiser of grassroots campaign Cal Aid, said it was vital that people donated through a centralised distribution system.

“We are struggling to cope, not with British aid, but Belgian aid,” he said from Calais, describing the arrival of 35 people with donations causing a rush of people to the vans as they turned up.

“The police had to come down and they are now saying they won’t let anyone in without the correct papers,” said Fisher.

He said material donations were needed, but that they had to be given in a “respectful manner” that does not dehumanise the people in the camp.

Fisher added: “We do need stuff, but we need it for November and later. So people shouldn’t turn up at the camp now because it will just be left lying there on the street. It needs to be rationed out properly.”

A photographer and film-maker, Fisher is one of nine volunteers running the website and its Facebook page for the past two months.

He said distribution of donations up to now had been smooth, but he added that it is imperative that everything is distributed in controlled conditions to maintain the dignity of the approximately 3,000 people in the camp.

He is organising monthly collections of items which will then be stored in Calais warehouses and distributed as needed. “We would like [people] instead of driving to Calais to donate to us instead and we will distribute it,” said Fisher.

The group recently got access to a 700 sq m warehouse in France and will use this to stockpile donations.

The harrowing pictures of Aylan and his five-year-brother Ghalib, who also died in an attempt to get from Turkey to Kos, has prompted a surge in donations to Calaid.

“One of the donors on our JustGiving page said he was giving everything he had. That was £4.65. That meant so much more than the donations of £100s,” said Fisher.