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We’re hiring! Apply to join Help Refugees as our new Office Manager

Help Refugees Office Manager

Application deadline 9am, Monday 9th March. 

About you

You’re someone who loves multitasking and really makes things happen. You have strong IT skills and you’re a natural organiser who can build systems for managing a wide range of ongoing and ad hoc tasks. You’re comfortable adapting plans and working in a fast-paced environment where things can often change. When you’re faced with tasks and challenges you use your initiative and can-do attitude to work out the way forward, but you also know when to check in with the team.

About the role

You’ll keep both the Help Refugees office and team ship shape, helping ensure colleagues are supported and have the resources they need. You’ll also act as a friendly and effective first point-of-contact for enquiries by email, phone and social media.

Your roles and responsibilities

Day-to-day office management: 

  • Troubleshooting IT issues
  • Acting as point of contact with all office facilities – security, repairs, IT, FOH, cleaners, rubbish disposal
  • Ad Hoc expenses for the Senior management team – COO, Head of Programmes and Head of Partnerships
  • Maintaining an office operational budget to track spending and manage expenditure
  • Maintaining the office environment by ensuring stationery, tea and coffee levels are topped up and plants are watered
  • Creating and implementing office management systems and leading on keeping the office tidy 
  • Managing stock of Choose Love merchandise, collecting additional stock from storage when needed and occasionally ordering new stock 
  • Managing stock of tablets and payment devices and ensuring everything is charged
  • Managing stock of buckets, chargers and simple event signage so it’s easy to send out for events
  • Organising and overseeing couriers and shipping locally, nationally and internationally
  • Hand-delivering items to VIPs 
  • Booking meeting rooms 
  • Taking minutes for team meetings
  • Paying cash and cheques in to the bank 

Acting as a first point-of-contact for enquiries: 

  • First point of contact with the general public representing the organisation’s voice and tone on emails and messages 
  • Replying to emails sent via website, prioritising anything urgent, sharing emails with relevant team members in a timely manner as required
  • Replying to messages and comments on social media in a friendly timely manner
  • Completing a range of other ad hoc tasks, depending on the needs and priorities of the organisation

Salary: 23-26k, depending on experience. Based in the Help Refugees London office, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Two-year contract, full time role, with six-month probation period. Applications to be submitted by 9am, Monday 9th March. 

If you’re interested in this role, please contact jobs@helprefugees.org with your CV and cover letter. Application deadline: 9am, Monday 9th March. 


Help Refugees does not discriminate in employment matters on the basis of race, colour, religion, gender, age, sexuality or any other protected class. We support workplace diversity and believe it creates dynamic, relevant organisations, fostering spaces for innovation and creativity. We are working hard to increase the diversity of our team and encourage you to be a part of it.

We are committed to making our roles and culture inclusive. We can make reasonable adjustments throughout the application process and on the job. If you have particular accessibility needs, please get in touch and let us know any requirements you may have.

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‘Climate Refugees’, Capitalism and the Australian Bushfires

Harry Sanders is a content writer for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation of immigration lawyers providing free advice and support to asylum seekers and victims of abuse.

 

As the new decade dawned roughly one month ago, humanity collectively breathed a sigh of relief, hoping at least for some small respite from the global mania of the 2010s. Within a few days, such hopes were quickly shattered by an onslaught of disasters – amongst which are the Australian bushfires which are still raging at the time of writing. The environmental impact of such widespread destruction is unquestionable (it is believed that around one billion animals have died in the fires), but in contrast with the flurry of wildlife appeals, the matter of human displacement has flown – relatively speaking – under the radar.

 

The bushfires presently wreaking havoc across Australia follow the country’s hottest year on record in 2019, with average temperatures 1.52C above the 1961-1990 average. Forgetting the views of the most hard-line of sceptics, this huge rise in temperature is the result of climate change caused by humans and our greenhouse gas emissions. Since the fires began, over 2,000 homes have been destroyed in the south of the country, and their former inhabitants have been made the first ‘climate refugees’ of the 2020s. 

Regrettably, though, Australia is not the first to experience climate-induced displacement. Since 2008, an average of 25.3 million people have been forcibly displaced due to environmental disasters every year. It is crucial to reinforce that these affected people are not simply joining family or taking up employment abroad; they have been forced to leave their homes by a change in circumstances that are in no way their choice or their fault. Thankfully, the UN has recently made it unlawful for climate refugees to be returned to their home country if this would leave them at risk from a climate disaster.

The communities hit hardest by these disasters are, unjustly yet unsurprisingly, the poorest and most rural. A recent IPCC report found that indigenous and disadvantaged populations are at a disproportionately higher risk from global warming of 1.5C and over. Agricultural and coastal populations – which are fundamentally dependent on a stable environment for their way of life – are destined to struggle with the rising unpredictability of our global climate. In fact, it is expected that by 2050 a gargantuan 143 million people from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America will be displaced. 

The present is morbid; the future, even more so. We have known this for so long that it is included in the national curriculum. However, it is still unclear what is actually being done to prevent this future of hellfire and brimstone from materialising. 

In reality, very little is being done for one plain and simple reason: to act on climate change is not in the best interests of anyone who benefits from our global capitalist and consumerist economy.

The biggest culprit is undeniably the fossil fuel industry, with its regard for the future wellbeing of the planet and its colourful tapestry of peoples and cultures always coming second to profit. A now infamous statistic often floated in discussions on climate change is that just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. For example, Shell – a household name – is just one of these companies, and alone is responsible for 1.7% of global emissions for the last 30 years.

Companies dealing in fossil fuels such as Shell quite literally get away with murder, thanks to the greed and carelessness of the politicians which protect them. Australia has one of the worst records in this department due to its status as the world’s fourth largest coal producer, and largest exporter of both coal and liquefied natural gas

As a result, Australia’s fossil fuel interests are protected by politicians and lobbyists who stand to profit from continued coal and gas production. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is one of many politicians who deny Australia’s involvement in global emissions in order to maintain profit margins. In the wake of the recent bushfires, Mr Morrison claimed that Australia is doing enough to limit its emissions

Mr Morrison’s apparent heartlessness in the face of immense death and destruction sweeping his country should not be surprising, as he was also one of the architects of Australia’s troubled and brutal immigration policies. Since 2013, refugees arriving to Australia by boat have been intercepted and sent to detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea where they wait to be processed amidst myriad human rights abuses. Ironically, both Nauru and Papua New Guinea are islands ‘at risk’ from potential environmental disaster.

 

In this new decade, the governments of not only Australia but of all nations face a choice of monumental importance. Will politicians continue to pander to the profit-driven robots of the fossil fuel industry, and in doing so ensure the continued escalation of the global climate disaster and the eventual displacement and death of millions globally? Or perhaps, for once, will thought be given to reason and humanity over zeroes in bank accounts?

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Win tickets to the Love Letters Live show on Valentine’s Day!

We’re so excited to have got our hands on a pair of exclusive tickets for the sold-out Love Letters Live show on Valentine’s Day at Shoreditch Town Hall – and we’re offering them to two lucky Choose Love supporters.

Previous Letters Live events have unearthed letters sent by the likes of David Bowie, Maya Angelou and Che Guevara and placed them in the hands of such luminaries as Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Colman, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

We’re sure this event will be just as dazzling.  And we’re thrilled that this special Valentine’s Day event, themed around love letters, will support our amazing projects with refugees. That really is love in action.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply follow both Choose Love and Letters Live on Instagram and tag someone you love in the comments below this post, who you’d like to take with you to the event (make sure they can be in London on Feb 14th!). The winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday 4th February.


Competition Terms and Conditions

1. All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition, this can be done by liking and commenting on the specified Instagram post and following Choose Love (@chooselove) and Letters Live (@letterslive) on Instagram. Alternatively if the entrant is not on Instagram, we will accept entries via email. Please email contact@helprefugees.org with ‘Letters Live competition’ in the subject line and your full name in the body of the email.

2. Entries made online using methods generated by a script, macro or the use of automated devices will be void.

3. No responsibility can be accepted for entries lost, delayed or corrupted, or due to computer error in transit.

4. No responsibility can be accepted for prizes lost, delayed or corrupted in transit to the winner.

5. The competition will close at 9am Tuesday 4th February. To be eligible, entries must be received on or before the competition closing date.

6. The prizewinner will be decided by Help Refugees. The prizewinner will need to respond within one week of being contacted by email; or the prize will be forfeit and will be awarded to a different entrant selected at random.

7. The right is reserved to terminate or withdraw this contest at any time.

8. All prizes are not transferable, non-refundable, no whole/part cash alternatives.

9. The Promoter will make available the name and county of the winners to anyone who requests this information by writing an email to contact@helprefugees.org.

10. The prizes are as stated in the competition text, are not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.

11. Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers’ terms and conditions.

12. The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition.

13. In the event of a prize being unavailable, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.

14. The winner(s) agree(s) to the use of their name being used online in post-winning publicity.

16. Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered into over this decision.

16. Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time.

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In Calais we see what happens when refugee children are left out in the cold

In the industrial zone on the edge of Calais, tents are scattered across landfill sites or are perched on slag heaps. Inside sleep unaccompanied refugee children.

It’s still dark and the children are asleep when they are forcibly woken up.

Dressed in riot gear, police shake the children’s tents and shout in French. Frightening enough for adults, it’s terrifying for children. But some of them have become hardened to it and this, too, is unbearably sad.

Sleeping bags are removed, sleep is disrupted and another day of survival in the open begins.

For the 200 or so unaccompanied refugee children currently sleeping rough in northern France, life is impossibly hard. Almost every day begins with an eviction before 9am, an arbitrary and cruel operation carried out by the French authorities to continually displace young people who are already living in desperate conditions.

These are kids who have fled war and insecurity in places such as Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Sudan and Eritrea, and who have become separated from their families. Many are orphans, others have found themselves the only member of their family able to escape from terrible situations.

I’ve even seen some as young as eight years old. What unites them all is the wary look in their eyes and the layers of clothes they wear against the cold.

The days drag on as young people sit around fires trying to keep warm. No education, no shelter, no state legal support – none of these fundamental human rights appear to exist for them.  Seeing their situation and the apathy our leaders show to it leaves me in a state of despair and mourning the childhood they are missing.

As Field Manager for Help Refugees in northern France, my job is to coordinate volunteers who work around the clock to meet the most basic needs.  We’ve been providing support here for years; blankets, firewood and hot food for starters. I help safeguard the kids, flagging particularly vulnerable cases to lawyers and others who can help.

The deepest injustice is that while they are living this nightmare on the streets in France, those with family in the UK could be safely at home with them.

Currently, if an unaccompanied refugee child in Europe has any family in the UK, they have a right to be reunited with them. Over the years that I’ve been working here, some children I’ve known have been able to take advantage of this and are now living safely in the UK.

But bureaucracy and foot-dragging on the part of the British government have left many children still stranded, and now the government is trying to scrap the legislation that could give those still here a lifeline to security.

Last week, the House of Commons voted against an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill (the ‘Brexit Bill’) that would have preserved family reunification after Brexit – one of the last legal routes that exists for unaccompanied children to find safety.

The House of Lords just overturned that vote, sending the Bill back to the Commons with a clear signal that this is morally unjustifiable.

We only have a few hours to tell our MPs that this country wants the right to family reunification for lone refugee children enshrined in law once and for all. Please, take action now.


Maddy Allen is Help Refugees Field Manager for northern France. 

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On Samos, we see what happens when refugee children are left out in the cold

When I was a little kid, I lost my mum in the supermarket. I still remember the terror of those minutes vividly. But on the Greek islands, children as young as eight live totally alone in freezing tents, for months at a time.⁣

Yesterday I was told about a ten-year-old unaccompanied child living on Samos. When he was asked what he needed, rather than a sleeping bag, a jacket or food, he asked for a football. He really did need a sleeping bag, a jacket and food, but he didn’t know that. Children aren’t meant to know what they need in order to survive winter. On Samos these kids are forced to understand things, see things, and experience things that no one should – let alone a child.⁣

On Samos, around 400 of these children live alone in the camp and overflow area which surrounds the official compound. They’re left to fend for themselves. They’re constantly cold and dirty and have to queue for hours for food. They don’t go to school, and when night falls they’re exposed to horrifying dangers. Depression, self harm and suicidal tendencies are commonplace among these kids.⁣

Across Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied refugee children who have family in the UK. But rather than allowing these children to escape tortuous conditions and reunite with family members, the UK government is trying close family reunion for lone refugee children after Brexit.⁣

It is easy to see politics as something big, abstract and irrelevant, but here on Samos we can see the devastating impact of hostile refugee policies on a daily basis. ⁣

Some of the children here are so traumatised they scream out in their sleep. We cannot turn our backs on these most vulnerable children. We should all be screaming out.”⁣

 



Hannah is a Field Manager for Help Refugees on the Greek island of Samos.

TAKE ACTION: if you’re based in the UK, please take a few minutes to contact your MP.

 

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We’re hiring! Apply to join Help Refugees as our new Digital Fundraising Manager

DIGITAL FUNDRAISING MANAGER

Are you an experienced digital fundraiser with a flair for communication?

Are you motivated by a love of humanity that knows no borders?

Choose Love/ Help Refugees is looking for a Digital Fundraising Manager to join our small and collaborative team in London.

You will have substantial digital fundraising or digital marketing experience and be passionate about digital innovation, as well as about the rights of those who have been forced to flee their homes.  You love creative communications, data, and raising funds to support our incredible humanitarian partners.

This is an exciting opportunity to become part of an organisation that has had digital at its heart since the beginning. Started as little more than a hashtag to organise donations in response to the refugee crisis in 2015, in less than five years we have grown to be a movement that has worked with over 35,000 volunteers and provided aid to over a million people.

An incredible number of people have become part of the Help Refugees movement, but the scale of the refugee crisis is even bigger. The Digital Fundraising Manager will play a key role in taking our response to the next level, recruiting new online supporters and deepening the engagement of existing ones.

You will work with the Director of Communications and Campaigns and others across the organisation to help develop and deliver our digital fundraising strategy, rolling it out across social, our websites, email and marrying up with offline events too.

ABOUT HELP REFUGEES

In August 2015, a group of friends started using the hashtag #helpcalais to organise a van full of donations. Within a week, we had raised £56,000 and were soon receiving 7,000 items every day.

We are now one of the largest providers of grassroots humanitarian aid in Europe, and currently support over 120 projects across Europe, the Middle East and US-Mexican border.

Each of these projects is powered by ordinary people who are stepping up where governments are failing to provide even the most basic services. From those keeping rescue boats afloat, to the volunteers distributing tents and hot food, to the brave souls working under the desert sun to place water along the Mexican border.

We also support those working to build a brighter future — the teachers working with students to build prosthetic limbs, the therapists helping heal the invisible scars of war and the lawyers working to unite families.

Our ‘Choose Love’ brand has been worn by Oprah, Julia Roberts, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and thousands more across the world. Our ‘buy nothing’ pop-up stores in London, New York and LA have raised more than four million and gained headlines in New York Times, The Guardian and CNN. Our founders have addressed audiences including Barack Obama, Sheryl Sandberg and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

ABOUT YOU

You choose love 

You are motivated by a love of humanity that knows no borders.

You are a doer 

You spot opportunities for impact and make things happen. You are comfortable working on scrappy passion projects and longer-term strategic campaigns. A good day is when you’ve done something to change the world.

You are a creative communicator 

You know the world is changed by stories and you want to be at the heart of telling them. You can communicate complex ideas with clarity, powerful stories with passion and understand how to move people.

You are curious 

You know good ideas can come from anywhere and are constantly looking at the world around you for inspiration.

You are a team player

You work best when part of a small, collaborative team. You are happy to muck in when needed and the words ‘not my job’ have never crossed your lips.

You are entrepreneurial

You think beyond the limits of your current role. You take risks, celebrate failure and never stop generating ideas.

ABOUT THE ROLE

You’ll be responsible for:

  • Helping develop and deliver Help Refugees’ digital fundraising strategy.

  • Inspiring Help Refugees’ growing community of supporters by creating compelling fundraising campaigns and delivering them across email, social media, website, and marrying up with offline.

  • Tracking and analysing donor data and digital analytics to inform your work and the efforts of the organisation.

  • Overseeing social media advertising. We’re lucky enough to get pro bono support from Google and facebook. We want you to use it most effectively to enable people to connect with us, grow the movement, and increase donations.

  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest digital fundraising and marketing trends, techniques and technology.

  • Supporting the leadership team on fundraising from high-level individual givers and foundations.

  • Occasional management of contractors and project teams.

  • Working with communications and campaigns colleagues to integrate digital fundraising and advocacy/ campaigning.

Essential Requirements 

  • Track record of success in digital fundraising or marketing with at least three years’ experience

  • Demonstrable experience of understanding donor behaviour and inspiring people to give

  • Confident and sophisticated communicator with strong writing skills

  • Experience managing or working with a medium to large community of online givers (+50,000)

  • Demonstrable experience in using data and analytics to segment audiences and target content that has resulted in more support

The Big Pluses 

Ideally you will bring at least one of these to our work:

  • Experience with online fundraising in the model of new movement organisations (Avaaz, Sum of Us, 38 Degrees)

  • Experience using ActionKit or a similar platform

  • Experience working in the field of humanitarian aid, refugees or migration

  • Experience with mobile technology, online giving platforms and website design

  • Track record of using social media platforms to fundraise

THE DEAL 

The role will be managed by the Director of Communications and Campaigns.

The role is based out of the Help Refugees office in Somerset House, London. Part-time and/or remote working will be considered if you can be in London weekly.

The role may involve some infrequent travel.

The role will be offered as a permanent role with a six-month probation period, starting as soon as possible.

Salary is in line with other non-governmental organisations.

HOW TO APPLY 

Please apply with a cover letter (of no more than two pages) outlining your suitability for the role and a copy for your CV to jobs@helprefugees.org.

We will be reviewing and interviewing before the closing date.

Application deadline: 9am, Wednesday 26 February.

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Disabled Asylum-Seekers are Falling Through the Cracks of a Flawed System

Luna Williams is the political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation that offers full and free legal advice and assistance for asylum seekers, trafficking survivors, and detainees.

 

It is no secret that, over the past decade, Britain has become an increasingly hostile place for those seeking refuge in it. 

A combination of stricter border controls, hostile policies, and anti-immigration rhetoric has meant that the UK’s asylum process has become infused with a ‘culture of disbelief’, with the default response to claims founded in scepticism. 

This has evolved over time, and has been shaped by various factors, including the hostile environment policy, which has introduced a number of practices that continue to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people looking for safety in the UK, including unaccompanied children, victims of modern slavery, and pregnant migrants. Reports have surfaced recently which show these individuals continually falling through the cracks of the asylum process, as these individuals are unable to receive the care they desperately need. This fact is true for those awaiting the outcome of their asylum claim in the community and in detention centres.  

 

Lack of care is widespread

In detention, victims of trafficking — including people who have been held hostage and tortured — are detained indefinitely for months, and sometimes years. If this was not damaging enough in itself, reports have consistently found that these individuals have not received proper care during this time, despite the fact many are victims of physical violence still recovering from their wounds and most experience some form of mental health issue, like PTSD. In fact, analysis by the organisation Women for Refugee Women found that all the women interviewed at Yarl’s Wood in 2017-18 were suffering from some form of mental health condition, which was brought on by traumatic experiences in their home countries, on their journeys, and during their ongoing detention. 

Unfortunately, for those awaiting the results of their claim in the community, the story is not much brighter. Recent cases have shown high numbers of asylum-seekers refusing to seek care, including pregnant women, on the basis that they may risk their asylum claim or must pay extortionate fees. 

The hostile environment feeds directly into this. The Immigration Act 2014, which was rolled out as part of the policy, encouraged NHS trusts to refuse their services to those who couldn’t produce the proper documents, as well as share the data of those receiving healthcare. Although the latter practice was stamped out at the beginning of last year – owing to the fact it was seen as a breach of trust and data – it still continues to influence the decisions of those who need care, as many still fear they will still have their details shared with immigration officials if they visit a practice or hospital. 

 

Asylum seekers with disabilities at a high-risk

While this issue is certainly harmful to any vulnerable asylum-seeker, there are certain groups which are disproportionately affected. For instance, asylum seekers who have a disability of any sort are especially susceptible to missing out on the care they need in the UK. 

A disability is an umbrella term which can be used to describe any form of long-term condition which restricts a person in some way from completing everyday activities and tasks.   

Britain’s immigration system is already brutal in its treatment of and effect on asylum seekers and refugees, but it is even harder to navigate for those with physical, mental, emotional, educational, or sensory impairments and care needs. And hostile attitudes and practices shoulder a significant blame for this, resulting in many disabled people’s care needs being either debated or ignored by immigration officials – particularly in detention facilities. 

One case from last year saw a 22-year old man with severe learning disabilities and medical issues (including epilepsy) wrongly detained and cut off from his basic human rights without essential care by officers.

 Charles, who was being cared for by his Pakistani parents Ruth and Wilson Mukerjee was physically grabbed and held by immigration offices when he visited the British Home Office in Liverpool for what he thought would be a routine check up last April.  When Charles’ medical records were presented to the officers his father, who was with him at the time, said that they were met with indifference and disbelief. “This is not in our records, nor do I want to see this” the officer told him. 

After this, Charles was forced into a van with his parents, and driven without food, water or bathroom breaks for approximately six hours. During this time, Charles have several seizures due to the stress, and told his father that he wanted to commit suicide. 

Though the length of time Charles was detained was relatively short, as his lawyer stood in to have him removed from the centre, his treatment bought to light the extent to which those with disabilities are not only neglected, but also punished by Britain’s asylum process.

 Sadly, this story is not unique. Asylum seekers with disabilities and long-term care needs have been falling to the wayside since the hostile environment policy was first implemented in 2012. As a result of the policy, innocent people looking for refuge have been treated as criminals, refused vital services and cut off from essential care. A report released this January found that there had been various instances in which disabled asylum seekers in Scotland were refusing to seek medical assistance because they are worried about high costs (though these fees only exist in hospitals in England) and their identities being shared with the Home Office. This is particularly true for asylum-seekers with mental health issues, or mental disabilities – as many believe it will affect the outcome of their claim if they come forward to report them to health professionals.   

 

What needs to happen next?

Urgent action must be taken to address this issue and ensure that vulnerable people with disabilities receive the care and support they need. 

According to the current 2014 Care Act, which outlines how asylum seekers with disabilities should be cared for, they become the responsibility of a local authority if ‘the adult is ordinarily resident in the authority’s area or is present in its area but of no settled residence’. 

However, there is an issue with this statement. It leaves local authorities entirely responsible for the wellbeing of asylum seekers and forces them to find and account for individuals who are stateless, or without a home, which leaves the onus entirely on them. This leaves far more room for such individuals to fall through the cracks. 

Notably, the Act also fails to set up any clear referral scheme with which those applying for refuge with care needs can be easily pared with their local authority and does not put provisions in place to monitor whether these are being met. 

As a result, it is imperative that the 2014 Care Act is reviewed and redrafted to ensure that there is a clearer passage for referrals so that the care needs of individual asylum seekers can be more effectively assessed and provided. 

As well as this, movements should be made to secure a ban on detaining anyone with disabilities where this is not an absolute necessity and, where it is absolutely necessary (for example, if there is a clear history of violence or they pose a demonstratable flight risk) that they be detained in an environment which has been catered for them. This would be safe and accessible and would host care professionals to suit a range of disability needs. Here, individuals would be able to wait out their claim with the support and care they require and deserve as a human right. 

Ultimately though, detention and hostile practices must stop being the default approach to dealing with vulnerable people – particularly those who are disabled, who are already at a disadvantage when it comes to making the perilous journey to the UK in the first place.

 

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CHOOSE LOVE POP-UP SHOPS ARE BACK FOR 2019!

Please note: our pop-up shops in London, New York and LA are now closed. But you can still buy real products for refugees online at www.choose.love!

The ‘Choose Love’ stores are back with more love, fun and surprises than ever before! 

Come and visit the world’s first shop where you can buy buy real gifts for refugees. The shop is packed with much needed items like kid’s coats, winter boots, tents and sleeping bags. Buy what you want, but leave with nothing as each purchase you make is sent to someone who truly needs it. 

Whether you’re shopping for your Secret Santa, best friend or in-laws, give a gift that really matters. With every purchase you’ll get a beautiful gift card to go under the tree and the items you buy will be supplied to refugees around the world.And if that wasn’t enough… the store will be busy with performances, DJs, talks and some extra-special guests. 

Since first opening their doors in 2017 the Choose Love shops have distributed more than 1.6 million items! With so many people in camps and shelters across Europe, the Middle East and America/Mexico border in desperate need we want this year store’s to be bigger and better than ever. 

So come down, shop your heart out, buy everything, leave with nothing and feel the love.

If you can’t make it in person, please check out our online store at www.choose.love


Choose Love London

Choose Love New York

Choose Love LA

  • 611 N. La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
  • 29/11/2019 – 24/12/2019
  • Mon-Sat: 11:00 – 19:00
  • Sun: 11:00 – 18:00
  • Choose Love LA Facebook event
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Drones and Dogs: The EU’s Pursuit of Refugees Undermines Basic Human Rights

Elise Middleton, content writer for the Immigration Advice Service (IAS), writes about the criminalisation of rescue work at Europe’s borders and the lack of safe, legal routes for asylum seekers to the UK. IAS offers legal aid for asylum-seekers, trafficking survivors and survivors of domestic abuse.

 

War, the climate crisis, oppression and violations of human rights across the world consistently result in the displacement of people looking to escape life-threatening situations. Figures from the UN International Organisation for Migration estimating how many people will migrate as a result of the rapidly developing climate crisis range from 25 million to 1 billion by 2050, bringing the consequences of our own selfish greed directly to our front doors. The UK, alongside the other EU member states, has a moral and legal responsibility to hear their claims.

 

After the Libya migrant shipwrecks of April 2015, the EU established ‘Operation Sophia’. Described as part of the EU’s ‘response to the migration issue’ and with a mandate to reduce and prevent instances of international smuggling and trafficking, the operation began with a focus on cracking down on the trade yet ended up aiding victims and rescuing migrant boats in distress. The operation’s name was actually amended from EUNAVFOR MED in a touching move when 453 migrants were rescued including a Somali mother who subsequently gave birth to a baby girl who she called Sophia. The operation was changed to “honour the lives of the people [the EU was] saving”, but this now seems to be more performative than indicative of their intentions. 

 

Despite these humanitarian origins, by 2017 Operation Sophia began to lose its focus. Italy’s parliament passed a law that wanted to penalise NGO boats attempting to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, with a threat of fining the captains up to €1 million and the destruction of Libyan fishing boats. This also gave Matteo Salvini, the far-right Interior Minister, the ability to prevent migrant rescue boats docking in Italian ports. 

 

Yet it is not just Italy that is cracking down on asylum seekers with an iron fist: the UK and EU have collaboratively designed new techniques and methods to essentially ensure refugees never reach the doors of sanctuary, even if it means the death toll increases. 

 

The first initiative of this new strategy saw Operation Sophia close its rescue missions this March – although the EU did decide to open it again this September for another six months, but seemingly pointlessly so as it functions without any ships. Many critics such as the  EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, have spoken out against the move as her spokeswoman declared that “Sophia is a maritime operation and it’s clear that without naval assets, the operation will not be able to effectively implement its mandate”. The UN similarly claims the Mediterranean risks becoming a ‘sea of blood’ as a result

 

Alongside the sea restrictions, responses to the migrant crisis have also been met with militarised borders and technological advancements – supposedly to catch traffickers. Yet in a sadistic turn of events, naval vessels have been replaced with unmanned aerial vehicles which record devastating scenes of migrants struggling and potentially drowning instead.

The UK poured over £44 million into the drones alongside additional super-sensitive security scanners, the construction – and destruction – of Calais and Dunkirk camps and night vision technology goggles

 

Not one single official rescue mission has taken place in the Mediterranean since August 2018, and the journey to the UK to try and claim asylum has become increasingly dangerous. Consequently since 2015, the number of people dying as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean has dramatically increased nine-fold while the Channel witnessed its first ever refugee drownings from August to October this year in which four people have so far lost their lives. 

 

The fact that the UK and EU wish to diminish crossings – jeopardising lives in the process – is a serious cause for concern. Not only does it undermine basic humanitarian principles, but it has a drastic and terrifying impact on the lives of those who are merely exercising their international human right while traffickers gain even more margin to make profits since higher risks comes with a higher cost.

 

There are no planes to board when fleeing from a war-torn country. Slavery and torture victims similarly can’t flee easily, often escaping in a rush and out the backdoor to avoid unscrupulous officials. The decision to migrate is not one ever taken lightly and it is always in the hope of having a better qualify of life, to flee from human rights abuses and to raise children in a country free from violence. Asylum seekers are often leaving behind the only country they’ve ever known, including friends and family, and must travel for days – if not weeks – by foot, car, bus, train or however means necessary in their search for sanctuary. 

 

Refugees arrive in Britain via dinghies and lorries in the absence of legal alternatives – and they are only following protocol in doing so since asylum claims can only be filed once physically in the UK. What’s more is that international law protects asylum seekers from being penalised for illegally entering; the way someone makes their way to the UK in pursuit of asylum has no bearing on the outcome of their case for asylum.

 

39 Vietnamese and Chinese citizens have recently been found dead in a refrigerator trailer in Essex, serving as a timely and tragic reminder of what happens when asylum seekers are both forced to take the most dangerous routes and put their lives in the hands of smugglers. Tra My, a Vietnamese woman named by a human rights group as one of the victims, reportedly texted her parents: “So sorry mum and dad. The route to abroad didn’t succeed. Mum. I love you and dad so much. I am dying because I can’t breathe.” This is irrefutable proof that placing more barriers in front of people looking for safety and survival outside of systems of oppression and countries savaged by war or poverty can only lead to more death.

 

Such horrendous loss of life that is tallying up could have been avoided if the member states were truly committed to preservation. Instead, the Home Office sees fit to funnel millions into prevention, building barriers, walls and traps to ensure migrants can’t arrive into the UK – or at least can’t arrive while they’re still alive.

 

Vulnerable individuals should not have to risk their lives just to have their story heard in the UK – which is their right. The UK must do more to protect refugees by implementing safe passages. Setting up a safe route or allowing asylum seekers to claim in juxtaposed ports abroad would rapidly reduce the death toll and the trafficking trade. It would also come at a far cheaper cost than scattering dangerous obstacles. 

 

However, even if it were more expensive, there is surely no such higher priority than the preservation of life. Without serious revaluation into the UK asylum system and treatment of refugees, rigid immigration policies will continue to serve as a death sentence. 

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The Calais Jungle… three years on

Three years ago today, bulldozers started entering the Jungle camp in Calais. Famous for being one of the largest refugee camps in Europe, with 10,000 people at its peak, this huge eviction dispersed the residents of the camp, refugees from all corners of the earth, across France. Today the piece of land where the Jungle camp once stood is a nature reserve. It’s a sanctuary for migrating birds. Such irony.

‘Calais?’ people ask. ‘I thought Calais was finished.’

Calais is a complex, diverse and challenging place, containing layers of kindness and racism in sometimes equal measure. It’s always been a focal point for migration and it always will be, because of its proximity to the UK. Today there are nearly 1,500 displaced people living between Calais and Dunkirk, including nearly 250 unaccompanied children and an increasing number of families.

Since the large Jungle eviction on October 24th 2016, there have been 1,301 recorded evictions in Calais, plus 173 evictions in the neighbouring camps in Grande-Synthe. Police arrive at people’s makeshifts camps, often just a few tents gathered together, to form large and ominous perimeters. They hold tear gas canisters and batons, intent on removing people from where they’re sleeping. Shaking and slashing tents, seizing blankets in summer or winter, this continual harassment is ever-present in Calais.

We’re three years on. Why no positive progress?

Grassroots organisations from both sides of the border continue to fill the gaps left by governments and international NGOs. As the political rhetoric of Europe swings to the right and the uncertainty of Brexit looms over those who are displaced and dislocated, people strive to bring a sense of community as they continue to survive in such grim and deteriorating living conditions – for through community you can get glimpses of humanity. Over the last three years, the sporadic flurries of media attention focus on Channel crossings by boat and tragic deaths at the border. Those who have been dehumanised into a statistic are only given the right to their identities when they die.

The hostile environment is not a static policy. It is not set in stone. It evolves, shifts and hardens in its approach. With two more deaths of young men in the Channel, they government puts another border force boat in the water to increase security. Children being exploited in the hands of smugglers; they close some of the final legal routes of passage.

And then the horrors of this week. 39 bodies, including a child, found in a lorry in the UK. A tragedy too hard to write about. But write about it we must. Blame the smugglers, blame the wars, blame the arms trade, blame the financial markets, blame the poverty. But do not blame the people. Do not scapegoat the victims. Do not respond with more draconian hostile policies. Our solutions must be humanitarian at their core; not in the ’emergency response’ solution that nowadays is associated with this word – but with its core meaning; a focus on promoting human dignity and welfare. 

‘If there are still people there, what can we do?’

Step up. We all have to step up.

Human Rights Observers are on the ground every morning in Calais and Dunkirk to ensure human rights violations by the French police during the daily evictions are being monitored.

Organisations have formed to welcome and integrate asylum seekers as they arrive in the UK. These organisations ensure that central to their work is the need to let people be heard. Groups like Welcome Presents, which aims to bridge the divide between refugees, asylum seekers and the wider UK public, using food, film and friendship. And May Project Gardens, which uses gardening, food and hip hop to overcome disempowerment, build community and pass on skills.

Our wonderful partners, Refugees at Home, are supporting ordinary citizens (just like you) to open their doors and welcome in refugees by hosting them.

Our partners at Safe Passage are fighting to ensure that family reunification routes of passage remain open, despite government shifts in policy.

Since the Jungle eviction, Help Refugees has welcomed more than 15,000 volunteers to our operations on the ground in Northern France – chopping wood, sorting clothes, cooking rice. 

Whether it’s changing conversations at the kitchen table, volunteering, fundraising or writing to your MP – whoever you are, wherever you are – we all can, and must, play a part.


Maddy Allen is Help Refugees Field Manager for Northern France.

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