Heydon Prowse’s adventures in refugee-land!
Two weeks ago some friends and I decided to take supplies out to the refugees in Europe.
People were desperate. Most were Pakistani or African men – the Greek authorities had prioritised getting Syrian and Iraqi families off the island. With no money and no shoes, most still hoped to make it to Germany, Sweden or the UK.
We distributed what we’d brought with us, and gave out hundreds of shoes, sleeping bags and backpacks that we’d bought on the island. Fights broke out when we handed out our supplies. Afterwards I was approached by a group of almost tearful Pakistani men who were leaving the next day and didn’t have bags. I’d been giving them out to people who hadn’t even had their papers stamped yet. It was awful having people’s futures in your hands and messing up because of bad planning.
Maybe that’s a sign that you should leave it to people who have competence in these things, and not just good intentions?
The next morning we went back up to the border, and this time the Red Cross were there. We distributed clothes. One teenage girl wouldn’t take the socks we offered because they were pink and had cartoons on them. My first thought was “bit picky”, but then I remembered what I was like as a teenager. It doesn’t make much difference if you’re homeless on some foreign border or on the school run in Islington – if you’re 16, you don’t want to be seen wearing a child’s socks. It’s embarrassing.
These people are – supposedly – fleeing for their lives, destitute, etc. Yet they turn down socks of the ‘wrong’ colour?
These are proud people going through terribly dehumanising experiences and, as much as they need raincoats and backpacks, they should be given respect for just how far they’ve come and what they’ve had to go through to get to here.
We should give them respect for the way they are attempting to subvert the accepted system for gaining asylum status, should we?