British media buzz around the “European” refugee crisis took a dark turn early this year. Following the tragic events in Paris, the press has been abound with accusations and cynicism towards refugee channels and extremism. But let us cast our minds away from these tactics and back to before this fearmongering began, to a period of solidarity amongst the British public. Now, more than ever, it is time we took a step back and examined ourselves, lest we forget, Syrians are running away from Daesh (ISIS) too. How has our behaviour been disrupted by this sheer influx of humans? Let’s take a closer look at the outpouring of grassroots humanity that it’s galvanised within the confines of our British bubble.
Over the past months, grassroots groups in the UK, and further afield, have witnessed an explosive growth of volunteers throwing themselves into the fray. For this fledgling movement of collective humanitarian action towards an otherwise politically abandoned wasteland, you have to admit, it’s not bad. Hundreds of individuals with partners, kids, professions and ongoing lives, yet seldom-little experience of large-scale charitable operations such as this have committed their spare hours to mucking in and just doing what they can. Whether through painstakingly sorting and labelling strangers’ sneakers, dragging overladen sacks of toiletries through warehouse alleyways, or lending a penny to keep the logistical wheels greased, many a Brit has made their mark.
So how has this process affected the British psyche? Have we, in turn, been imbued with a sense of solidarity by Syrians (refusing lifts from volunteers to valiantly march together for days on end through Hungary to Austria)? Or affected by the tales we hear of how “Jungle” dwellers are banding together to restore normality to their meagre existence through church services, art groups and the gritty scrap construction of make-shift classrooms and hospitals? Here we stand, faced with the sweet irony of the fact that we, with so much, have learned some of the most important lessons about human wealth from the fortitude of those who have lost everything.
Having taken the time to further investigate some of these niggling theses at a CalAid collection drop in Slough, we’ll follow this post with a a sample of volunteers’ realisations, reactions, hopes and fears. It’s important to acknowledge that these voices belong to an altruistic bunch, yet these pieces go some way to understanding the larger divisive puzzle of British sentiment vis-à-vis immigration, as it stands.
For more thoughts on the refugee crisis from Hannah Leach and James Fisher, visit humansinflux.tumblr.com