Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group is a group of people who live in and around Cambridge working to help the refugees living in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk. We send regular convoys to the camps and we also aim raise awareness of the situation, fundraise and organise donations of clothing and other items.
We are just a part of a growing movement of people in Cambridge and the UK who want to do something to help those displaced by war and persecution. Visit our How You Can Help page if you want to donate, volunteer or fundraise, and visit our convoys page if you would like to join a convoy.
Donation drop off and sort days
CamCRAG are hoping to organise regular donation drop off and sort days. These will be held every 12 weeks to coincide with alternate convoys. We are looking for venues around Cambridge and South Cambs we could use for a few hours to host one of these. Ideally it would be for 4 hours on a Saturday or Sunday and the venue would need to have parking. If you know of a church hall, community centre, cafe or another space we could use please let us know at email@example.com.
The next donations day will be on Sunday 18th September. The details will be confirmed on our website and facebook page asap. We will be collecting tents, blankets, sleeping bags, as well as clothes and food. (Please see the list on our website for the requirements around clothes and food donations).
If you are not able to make the drop off but have a donation to make please email firstname.lastname@example.org to organise alternative arrangements. If you want to donate food the Daily Bread continue to have a dropping off point for us.
Posted on 27/08/16
Update from the camps
Life in the Calais jungle continues to get harder as numbers approach ten thousand in a third of the space they had to occupy last year when they were told to move onto the area of dunes the Calasiens call ‘La Lande’.
At the beginning of August the French authorities conducted a raid on the restaurants and shops in the jungle, accusing them of illegally trading and operating in contravention of health and safety regulations. This obviously had a devastating affect on the morale of the residents. Not only were their provisions forcefully removed, but also the equipment they use for cooking, and other items. Many of the proprietors were arrested including the man who runs the Children’s Restaurant. This provides free food and is a vital resource especially for the unaccompanied minors, whose numbers are a significant proportion of the over 800 children now present.
CamCRAG volunteers traveled to Calais the weekend of the thirteenth of August shortly after a court ruling that this action was not in accordance with the French law, and required the prefecture not to carry out a planned demolition of the cafe spaces. It’s unclear whether they will be legally allowed to continue trading.
Utopia 56 have now officially stopped working at ‘La Liniere’, the Dunkirk refugee camp setup by the mayor of Grande Synthe and MSF. This is now being run in a much more formal manner by the French charity AFEJI. Utopia 56 posted a fairly severe condemnation of this change in status and restriction on the freedom of the refugees there, and of the apparent change of tune of the mayor.
However, despite statements that unoccupied shelters would be removed, and only refugee women with children would be admitted to the camp, and a dip in numbers down to around seven hundred (many drifting to Calais where they have more freedom), in the past couple of weeks it seems that numbers are swelling again. There have been more calls out for volunteers and aid.
Fleeing back to the countries they have run from is in itself a dangerous thing to do. Two Kurdish refugees who decided they would be better off returning to Kurdistan to fight ISIS rather than live in the jungle were very recently shot to death by Macedonian border guards.
Refugee camps in and around Paris are constantly being demolished, and we can but hope that the mayor of Calais’ statement that the jungle will be demolished in September does not become reality. France does not have the capacity to house these people if they are not even allowed to stay in this awful place.
Posted on 27/08/16
Warning over refugee numbers as Cambridge residents travel to Calais
A convoy of Cambridge residents is heading to Calais this weekend taking food and a caravan as volunteers warn the refugee camp there is growing by the day.
35 people will take 8 cars on a ferry crossing to Calais on Friday for a weekend of work at the Jungle camp organised by Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group. As well as helping tidy the site and assist with local aid projects the group will be taking £1,600 worth of food to support the volunteer-run kitchens in the camp and other donated items including a laptop, a sewing machine and books on learning English as a foreign language.
The group will also be delivering a caravan which was bought and refurbished by a group of friends. Staff at the Debbie Bliss Home shop in Walthamstow were inspired by reading about previous donations of caravans which have gone from the UK to Calais recently and decided to do something similar.
Debbie Bliss, owner of the shop, said: “We raised enough money to buy, renovate and equip a caravan and it is now ready to go. We dedicated it to our friend Ishwer Sahotey, a talented , award winning filmmaker and photographer, who died let year at the age of 26. The caravan is called Esprit de Ishwer.”
Lara Brettell, Chair of CamCRAG, said: “We’re really pleased to be linking up with other groups around the country who are doing their bit to help the refugees in Calais.There is a strong network of people across the UK raising money and sending volunteers to the camp.
“Although it may not be top of the news agenda currently, the refugee crisis in Europe is bigger than ever. In Calais it is particularly precarious – there were more than 7,000 counted in the last census in July with up to 100 arriving a day. It is expected that by September the numbers may well be up to 10,000. There are 761 children there – 608 of those are unaccompanied.
“We will continue to help in any way we can for as long as these refugees need our help.”
The French authorities have announced that the ‘Jungle’ may be totally demolished in September, and there is currently nowhere for the population to be relocated to in France.
You can follow the convoy’s activities in Calais throughout the weekend on our Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/Camb4Calais
Posted on 11/08/16
Huge thanks to our latest convoy volunteers
25 volunteers from Cambridge joined our latest convoy to Calais this weekend. They spent two days tidying the camp, delivering aid and restoring shelters. If you’re interested in joining the next convoy visit the convoys webpage for all the details.
City councillor joins convoy to Calais
A Cambridge city councillor is joining the convoy to the refugee camps in Calais this weekend (July 2/3) to see the impact of recent damage and to show solidarity after the EU referendum result.
Cllr Donald Adey is an active campaigner and fundraiser on refugee issues and is already a supporter of Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group. He will be joining a convoy of 25 people organised by CamCRAG and heading to the camp known as The Jungle this weekend to help restore shelters, deliver aid and distribute food.
He hopes to share his experiences with his fellow councillors on his return and update them on the work being carried out by Cambridge residents in Calais. The city council voted recently for Cambridge to become a City of Sanctuary – a show of support from the city for refugees made homeless by civil war, torture and terrorism.
This week is Refugee Week and a series of events have been held in the city as part of the new City of Sanctuary partnership.
Cllr Adey said: “This is my second visit to Calais, but my first since I was elected onto the city council. I was elected to represent the views of my constituents, and many people locally have told me how concerned they are about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Europe as people from Syria, Sudan, Eritrea and elsewhere try to find safety and shelter.
“Cambridge has responded in an amazing way to this crisis, with groups like CamCRAG and the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign being formed, fundraising events and appeals being organised and regular convoys heading out to make a real difference on the ground.
“The result of the EU Referendum was for many a sign that there is a real fear about immigration across the UK. It is now vital that we show those in this desperate situation that we will continue to do all we can to help them. They don’t want to live on a muddy piece of wasteland in Northern France, they don’t even want to live in the UK – they want to live in their home countries in safety, but for most that is just not possible.”
On his first visit to Calais Cllr Adey was representing St Columba’s Church in Cambridge, where he chairs their World Mission Group.
Recently tensions between different groups and overcrowding in the camp resulted in fire and violence breaking out. Hundreds were left without shelter and the incident showed just how inhumane the conditions are in The Jungle. CamCRAG immediately launched an emergency appeal and £750, donated by supporters, will be given to trusted organisations in the camp helping to restore shelters.
Posted on 27/06/16
Cambridge celebrates Refugee Week
Cambridge will come together to celebrate the contributions that refugees make to British society during this year’s Refugee Week, 20-26 June. Refugee Week is a yearly initiative celebrated around World Refugee Day, which this year is going to be held on 20 June. The programme includes film screenings, panel discussions, exhibitions and theatre plays and is organized by several Cambridge-based organizations refugee campaigns and the City Council. In an emergency appeal, Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group is collecting donations to rebuild parts of the refugee camp in Calais, which were recently destroyed by a fire.
Oscar Gillespie, councillor for Market Ward and member of the Cambridge City of Sanctuary steering group says: “Refugee Week has always been about showing how refugees enrich society in the UK. Telling their stories will be in the focus of this year’s celebrations. The response of the citizens of Cambridge to the current refugee crisis has been amazing, and we are proud to showcase Cambridge as a place of sanctuary and welcome for those fleeing war and persecution.”
For a full programme of events click here.
Posted on 13/06/16
Play to raise money for CamCRAG
A local playwrite is telling the story of the Calais refugee at The Junction in July.
Steve Walters is visiting the camp and will write four acts, to be performed over four nights, at the Hotbed Theatre Festival starting on Thursday July 7.
All the proceeds will go to support CamCRAG. Book online here.
Posted on 13/06/16
EMERGENCY APPEAL – please share and donate if you can
A few days ago violence erupted in the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle. This resulted in a fire which burnt down hundreds of shelters and left around 1,000 people homeless.
The violence occurred after tensions between different groups erupted. Most of those in the camp are fleeing civil war and tyranny in the Middle East and Africa. Their desperate situation and an overcrowded camp without proper facilities and services led to this tragedy. This illustrates just how unsafe and inhumane it is to treat human beings who are seeking shelter and safety in this way.
We must respond with kindness and compassion. We are taking an initial load of donated items to Calais. But we also need to replace the shelters which were destroyed and provide a basic level of accommodation for those affected.
We have built good working relationships with the agencies and volunteer groups on the ground in Calais and this money will be donated to those trusted groups who are helping to respond to this incident.
Donation page – https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/CamCRAG-emergency
Posted on 29/05/16
Bring us your donated items on June 25
On June 25th Castle Street Methodist Church will be open with volunteers on hand to take donated items.
The event will run from 10am to 3pm and clothes and food will be accepted. It is essential that we only collect the items needed in the camps – volunteers there are struggling to sort and store unwanted items. Please visit this page which covers exactly what is needed – https://cambridgecalaisrefugeeaction.org.uk/2016/05/26/donations-drop-off-and-sort/
We always appreciate everyone’s generosity, but please do not bring unwanted items along, as we do not have the space to store them.
Techfugees launches in Cambridge
Techfugees Cambridge will be launched on Saturday July 2. Techfugees is a growing international network of tech developers, NGOs and related practitioners working to develop technology to help refugees.
This first Cambridge event will focus on the theme of refugee camps, with consideration given to how we can improve internet/local network connectivity, data security & privacy and personal empowerment (improving access to training/education/jobs).
The conference will bring together developers, designers, refugees and NGOs in a collaborative process to identify and plan solutions to some of the problems which threaten the safety of refugees.
The conference runs from 10am – 5pm at Mills and Reeve, Botanic House, 98-100 Hills Road, Cambridge. To register click here.
Refugee event for Sawston
On Saturday 28th May there will be a Refugee Information Evening at Sawston Free Church.
Glenys Newton award winning storyteller, will talk about her work volunteering in Calais, Dunkirk and the Isle of Lesvos, and of the people that she has met along the way. Eddie Stadnik Chief Officer at Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum, and representing Cambridge City of Sanctuary, will talk about the work of CECF in Cambridge to support refugees and asylum seekers. Gill Ragsdale member of Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group and Schools of Sanctuary, will talk about her volunteering work in both Calais and Cambridge schools. Come along to find out more about the refugee situation and what you can do to help.
The event starts at at 7.30pm.
Filmmaker follows latest convoy
Filmmaker Luke Pierce joined CamCRAG’s most recent convoy to capture the volunteers bringing food and aid to refugees at the camps in Calais and Dunkirk. Here is his powerful film, a must see for anyone who wants to understand our work and why we make these vital regular trips. Please share this with friends and family.
Dubs amendment on refugee children voted down
We’re extremely disappointed that the Dubs amendment to allow 3,000 vulnerable children into the UK has been defeated. This was a chance for this Government to show real compassion and humanity towards innocent children whose lives have been torn apart by war and terrorism.
We were pleased that Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner supported the amendment. However, despite speaking at our recent Guildhall event and making public statements of support for refugees and on the issue of unaccompanied minors in particular, South Cambs MP Heidi Allen chose to abstain in the Commons vote. Heidi has written to explain her position on her website here. Even more disappointingly, South East Cambs MP Lucy Frazer voted to reject the amendment.
Following the vote the Immigration bill was again sent back to the Commons by the House of Lords, this time with the specific figure of 3,000 children removed. The Commons will now debate the new amendment which requires ministers to arrange the relocation of children who have made it to Europe into the UK.
£10,000 raised at an amazing evening at the Guildhall
(Thank you to Distant Cloud photography for the video!)
We had a fantastic event at the Guildhall on Friday April 15 – hundreds of people made a stand for refugees in the city. Click here for the full story and images of the day cambridgecalaisrefugeeaction.org.uk/guildhallevent
If you couldn’t make it you can play your part by donating to the online appeal here.
CamCRAG bringing caravans to Calais
CamCRAG volunteers heading to Calais this weekend (April 9/10) will be taking a caravan to donate to vulnerable refugees in the camp.
It’s part of work CamCRAG have been doing in cooperation with Jungle Canopy over the past month to supply caravans to the Jungle camp in Calais. These are currently being targeted for young unaccompanied minors who are otherwise lost between the cracks of the support services and can end up at the behest of traffickers – families with young children are also catered for. Supplying them with a caravan with a door that can be locked from the inside and the outside at least provides them with a point of stability.
The latest situation in Calais
Since our last convoy there has been a great deal of action in Calais. Things are changing on the ground quickly and we are monitoring what is happening to ensure we can support the refugees in the most effective way possible.
For an update of all the latest news read this blog from our committee member Dan Ellis.
Our next convoy will be on April 9th and 10th – check here or join our Facebook group to keep updated on the continuing situation.
Riot police enter The Jungle
CamCRAG volunteers and supporters have been left shocked and saddened by the scenes unfolding in the Calais refugee camp, known at The Jungle, today (Feb 29).
Tear gas has been used and water cannons have been let off as French riot police have entered the site, home to many hundreds of people displaced by war, torture and oppression. According to the BBC authorities say 1,000 people at the camp are to be evicted, however aid agencies on the ground have put the figure higher.
Our latest convoy has only just returned from the camp where we bought and donated food paid for by the kindness and generosity of Cambridge people. Our group, and many others like ours, was set up because we believe people who have been forced to flee their homeland and have made it to our doorstep to seek safety and shelter deserve to be treated with compassion and humanity.
Forced eviction, destruction of shelters, tear gas and riot police are not a compassionate and humane response to a humanitarian crisis.
We will continue to support refugees in Northern France with connections to the UK in whatever way we can. And we will be asking our local MPs to raise this issue with their leaders. The UK cannot not turn a blind eye to this problem simply because there is 20 miles of seawater between them and us.
February convoy provides food from Cambridge
The latest convoy to Calais has just returned from a weekend at The Jungle in Calais and Grand Synthe in Dunkirk.
During the trip volunteers bought much needed food and supplies using £1,200 donated by generous Cambridge residents through our recent appeal. These were donated to the Calais Kitchens who aim to provide at least one hot meal a day for the refugees at the camp,
Here’s some images from the trip.
Can you help raise £10,000 for refugees?
We’re teaming up with our friends at the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign to organise a high profile event at the Guildhall in Cambridge on April 15th.
The event will see speakers, live music, food and more all taking place in the centre of the city to raise funds and awareness. We really want to make this event a success so we’re looking for some passionate volunteers to get involved.
Visit this page to find out more about the event and the volunteer positions – www.cambridgecalaisrefugeeaction.org.uk/guildhallevent