GRANDE-SYNTHE REFUGEE SUPPORT ORGANISATIONS’s story
Refugee Women’s Centre (RWC) and Mobile Refugee Support (MRS) are urgently collecting funds to buy tents and sleeping bags for displaced people forced to sleep rough in northern France. Following the recent eviction and dispersal of around 1000 women, men and children from municipal shelter in Grande-Synthe, many people have returned to the area and are left with no option but to sleep outdoors. Our associations have all but run out of emergency stock to provide to those returning.
‘We have been in Europe trying to find a place to call home now for three years. We first tried to claim asylum in Germany, but the translator spoke a different dialect to us and made mistakes. Our asylum claim was rejected. We lived in a camp in Grande-Synthe for three months. One week ago, police came and shut down the camp. They put my family on a bus to a centre very far away. The centre kicked us out at 7am every day and didn’t let us back in till 6pm. The nearest shop was a 2 hour walk. We can’t imagine starting a life here, so we have come back to Grande-Synthe. We need a place where our basic rights as refugees are recognised.’
The aftermath of the mass eviction in Grande-Synthe on 17 September has continued to be catastrophic. The accommodation centres where people have been sent are inadequate and do not offer a long term solution. Over the past week we have seen hundreds of people return to set up camp in a nature reserve in Grande-Synthe, with more arriving each day. Most are sleeping rough without any access to stable shelter, sanitation or safe drinking water. This has put an immense strain on aid organisations, who are working tirelessly to meet people’s needs. Resources are running low and many people currently do not have a tent or sleeping bag for warmth at night. The weather has taken a turn for the worse; it is windy, rainy and cold. People are sleeping on wet ground. Adults and children are wrapping themselves in cling film to stay warm.
To give you a picture of the situation here, we would like to tell you about Emily’s* story. Emily is nine years old. She is always positive and a nurturing, caring and compassionate older sister to her little brother and other small children in her community. Emily told members of Project Play about one night in the new makeshift settlement. Her family had just returned to the area and been given a tent by the Refugee Women’s Centre. In the early hours of Monday morning, during a storm, the police came to confiscate their tent. “Police come, take my tent” she told us, and acted out the rain falling. She shivered and rubbed her arms to show us how cold she had been.
Emily smiled and laughed and sang songs with the Project Play team the day after this happened. But a nine year-old girl should not be woken up by police at night to have her only form of shelter taken away, and be forced to sit out in a storm. This demonstrates the contempt authorities have for the communities here. These are strong, resilient human beings, who are being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
While the solutions to preventing these scenes lie at national and international policy change, right now people have no option but to sleep on the ground. We need people from all communities to pull together.
£8 can buy a 1-man tent.
£18 can buy a 4-man tent.
£14 can buy a winter sleeping bag.
Please donate whatever you can, no matter how big or small. It will help us keep people safe and warm during this emergency period.