Local group responds to refugee crisis

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The growing refugee crisis has prompted many people in Northern Ireland to ask how they can help those fleeing from Syria and neighbouring countries to make the perilous journey into Europe.

In response, a group called Northern Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity has been set up to organise local collection points for essential items such as camping equipment, clothing, shoes and bedding and organisers are appealing for people to give what they can to support the effort.

Spokesperson, Elaine McCully said: “The people of Northern Ireland are known for their compassion and generosity to those in need and many people are keen to help with the refugee crisis but there hasn’t really been a co-ordinated opportunity to do this so far. The scale of the problem can seem so overwhelming and even many of the major charities are struggling to meet people at their point of need. The Irish Calais Refugee Solidarity group was set up with the aim of collecting clothes and supplies for a convoy of vehicles set to travel from Cork on 29th September. The Northern Ireland group was set up only a matter of days ago and already around 2,000 people have pledged their support in one way or another with a number of regional groups being established,” she said.

“We are looking for volunteers from across the Province to help co-ordinate efforts in their area, to sort and pack clothes and supplies and to deliver them to the main Irish collection point in Cork before they are taken on to Calais on 29th September. Those who cannot give their time but would like to assist financially towards transport and storage costs as well as additional aid on the ground can do so on the Ireland Calais Refugee Society page at Gofundme.com. We would encourage anyone who would like to volunteer to register their interest on the Northern Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity page on Facebook,” added Elaine.

“At the moment our main focus is to collect items for transport to Cork at the end of this month but there are also members of the group who are hoping to focus on supporting the aid effort in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. This is an international crisis and it is tempting to think that there is nothing we can do in Northern Ireland to make a difference but just providing warm clothing or shelter will at least give comfort to those who have been through so much and let them know that there are people out there who care about them,” she concluded.

Items currently required;

Heavy duty rubbish bags

Tents, blankets and sleeping bags

Men’s warm winter clothes in sizes small and medium

Men’s hats, scarves and gloves

Men’s runners and walking shoes in standard sizes

Unused toiletry bags, toothpaste and toothbrushes, tissues, razors, shaving foam and soap

Bikes, bike tools, puncture repair kits

Medicine and first aid kits

At the moment, there is no need for women and children’s clothing and blankets and organisers are asking that only items listed are donated as there is no way to store or distribute items that are not required. Whilst clothing items, bikes, blankets, sleeping bags and tents may be second hand, they will need to be clean and in good condition.

Collection points and times are as follows;

Belfast: Realta Social Centre, 48 King Street, Belfast, BT1, 6AD (between 12pm and 2pm, 5pm and 6pm, Monday to Friday; Ten Foundations, 233 Lisburn Road (between 10am and 12 noon Monday-Thursday up to 17th September); Alliance offices- Anna Lo, 88 University Street and Chris Lyttle, 56 Upper Newtownards Road (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday)

Holywood: Crooked Mile Tatoo, 13a-13b Church Road, Holywood (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday)

Limavady: Roe Valley Enterprise Agency, Unit 1, 1 Aghanloo Road, Limavady (9am-12noon, Tuesday-Friday and 2pm-4pm Saturday)

Lisburn: Social Enterprise Hub, 4-6 Market Place (10am-4pm, Monday 7th- Thursday 10th September)

Lurgan: Antigua Furnishings, 33 Waringstown Road, Lurgan (10am-4pm, Monday 7th- Thursday 10th September)

Mid-Ulster: Deerpark Farm, 49 Oaklea Road, Ballyronan, Magherafelt (9am- to 11am and 5pm-8pm); Steps Centre, Business Centre, Draperstown (7.30-9.30am, Monday-Friday and Saturday 10am-12noon); 12 Deramore Road, Cookstown (12 noon- 3pm daily); Care Centre, Maghera (9.30am-4.30pm, Tuesday- Friday)

Newry: Southern Group Enterprises, Unit 22 Greenbank Industrial Estate (10am-4pm, Saturdays 12th, 19th and 26th September)

North Antrim: Loughgiel Millenium Centre(12.30-2pm on Sunday 13th September)

Additional drop off points are being updated daily and will be posted to the main Facebook website and, where appropriate, to regional group pages.