When Swan announced in September that it planned to organise a UK-wide convoy of collected materials for refugees, it never imagined that the response would be so large.
In fact, it was SO large that an entire cargo container was sent to Samos, where social worker and Professor Chris Jones is helping to coordinate relief. The container finally arrived earlier this week. Both Chris and Swan wish to send a truly monumentous thank you to all who made the collection and delivery possible. True solidarity in the face of racist and inhumane international policy. Read Chris' letter here:
"The container has arrived and been unpacked!
What a monster and never in our lives have we seen such a big spaced so tightly packed. And to break the seal and open the doors to see all these faces of little teddy bears poking from behind the boxes and bags gave us a laugh. Just two days before it arrived, one of our group was saying that small teddy bears were the most treasured toys for the young children when they land on the beaches. They seem to give a lot of comfort so we were delighted to find so many in the container.
What can we say? Thank you does not say enough about how we feel. We didn't expect so many of the bags and boxes to be labelled which made an enormous difference to our unloading; we simply didn't expect so much and all of it will be so useful for the refugees – the blankets, sleeping bags, tents, mats and of course shoes......baby clothes...toiletries.....tooth brushes/paste and on and on. And all such good stuff.
The container represents a huge effort and we really hope you can communicate to as many of those involved as possible- the students and staff of your department and Liverpool Hope University more widely, the Social Work Action Network, members of trade unions including Unison and not least those in Scotland who paid for the container to be sent: Our deepest gratitude. It really is going to make a difference to many refugees coming to Samos especially as winter is coming.
But as you know well, we in our group on Samos, like many others are furious at the responsible powers in Europe for their utter failure to respond with humanity and solidarity to the exodus of refugees coming to Europe. It is no exaggeration to say that the burden of care for the arriving refugees on all of the Greek frontier islands including Samos has fallen on the shoulders of the people, who have been magnificent. But quite bluntly, we should not have to do this and we would not have to do it if the issue was seen as a humanitarian crisis instead of it being seen as a heavily racist framed security problem.
Our interventions in this context are fundamentally concerned with solidarity. We engage with the refugees and work with them to make sure that we can meet some of their most pressing needs. Working together builds solidarity between us and most importantly between the refugees themselves. We rarely have enough so sharing becomes really important and will be if they are going to survive their onward march from Samos to the north of Europe.
As I write the refugees are continuing to arrive in significant numbers. There are sharp daily fluctuations depending on sea conditions but still we are talking in hundreds of arrivals every day. Since Paris and with the development of the Hotspot in Samos Town we are seeing the emergence of a clear two-tiered system which is very depressing. The Syrians – around 60 to 70% of arrivals- are gathered in the Hotspot on the port. That is where the main resources from the big NGOs and other voluntary groups, as well as state resources are concentrated. Conditions are not great but there is more shelter now and more resources generally in terms of food and clothing. But as the security checks and fingerprinting take more time, they are no longer moving off the island as quickly. In the meantime all other nationalities are sent to the Camp about 1km out of the town centre up a remote hillside. The gates are no longer closed indeed there is now an overspill of refugees camping outside the perimeter fence. Yesterday there were 1,300 refugees in the Camp. It feels to be a largely abandoned place and the conditions and overcrowding are Medieval. Many will spend up to 2 weeks in these conditions waiting for their paper which will allow them to move on from the island. This is where we will be concentrating our effort and already we have started to distribute sleeping bags, blankets and not least tooth brushes (in huge demand)!
You and all who helped need to know that the words 'Liverpool Container' brings a lot of smiles to many of us on Samos. It is real solidarity and means a lot.
(On behalf of our group!)
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