Our meeting highlighted the work of Major Haris Giannaros of the Salvation Army in Athens and Laura Teisler – Goldsmith in Chios in Greece. See (Help for Leros) facebook page. Both relayed the extent and scope of this humanitarian crisis in graphic detail and the kind of things they were able to do to alleviate the pain and suffering experienced by so many refugees. The personal individual stories remind us that we are not dealing simply with a European security problem or a horde of economic migrants but for more than a major part, those who have been stripped naked of the security of living in their own nations by war and violence, while exploited to destitution by people smugglers. A UNHCR statistic tells us that 37% of new arrivals have been children in Greece in 2016. The total lack of ‘safe and legal routes’ provided by the international community has lead to these dangerous routes claiming so many lives. This is what makes the work of individuals like Haris and Laura and their organisations and countless others like them so imperative and worthy of our support. Every little effort can make a difference.
Anne Sears of the Mother’s Union gave us an insight into a positive view of what refugees in our midst may accomplish. Seeking to link with potential host families she seeks to share her vision with the Council, churches, voluntary groups and people of goodwill.
In addition, Amy from the Huguenot Museum Rochester shared her happy and creative experiences of working with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children with the British Red Cross in an educational capacity in Gravesend.
Europe and Britain’s potential to give and provide hope to those ravaged by war and violence is immense. The reality of depriving people of hope draws parallels to the failure of Europe to provide refuge to Jews before the Second World War. A fact that was shared at Medway Holocaust Memorial Day by Medway City of Sanctuary on the 27th of January at Mid Kent College. The very same excuses heard then are the same heard today. The results are we build pits of despair like we now see in Greece and in Calais. Every effort needs to be made to help change attitudes and circumstances. At City of Sanctuary we will continue to work to this end, making refugees welcome at a local level. Please join us in creating, safe and welcoming spaces in the Medway Towns.
Stephen Goldsbrough ( Secretary and Coordinator )