Fifers respond to Syrian refugee crisis

Sorting through  the Burntisland donations at The Beach House are Jo Hobbett, Lucy Mottershaw, her son Jamie and Kirkcaldy lad, Ethan Thomson.
Sorting through the Burntisland donations at The Beach House are Jo Hobbett, Lucy Mottershaw, her son Jamie and Kirkcaldy lad, Ethan Thomson.

Fifers have responded overwhelmingly to the developing humanitarian crisis that has left many Syrians fleeing their country in search of a better life.

A conversation sparked by the graphic images of a Syrian child’s dead body - which aired across media outlets last Tuesday - sparked people across the Kingdom into action.

Groups have sprung up in many towns, and now the volunteers are coming together to co-ordinate their efforts.

Spurred by the unfolding crisis a group of local people joined forces to create Facebook group ‘Burntisland CalAid’.

Jo Hobbett, who helped set up the group, said: “The images of the children being washed up was a turning point for a lot of people who started thinking this needs responding at a human level not just political.

“After struggling for a few months wondering, what is the answer to this huge humanitarian crisis, I realised I don’t need to have the answer - just doing something is the answer.”

Combining their efforts with the Fife-wide response, the Burntisland group linked up with the larger ‘Glenrothes/Fife - Calais Refugee Collection’ group set up by Glenrothes mum of two Lauren Daly and friend Lewis Cunningham.

“A group of local people met on Sunday to organise what we were planning to do and we have set up collection points for donations in Burntisland,” Jo explained. “I contacted Lauren and will be coordinating the transport of our donations to a warehouse in Glenrothes organised through them.

“Donations have come pouring in! My front room looks like a mini warehouse.

“It’s brilliant that we’ve been able to join together across Fife and work together.”

Responses to the crisis in southern Europe, which sprung up across the county, have amalgamated and all donations made to collection points will feed into the Glenrothes/Fife - Calais Refugee Collection group, before being sent to Calais.

A crowdfund page was also set up for those wanting to donate money to help with transport and other logistical costs and on Monday an anonymous donor doubled the fund taking the total to £1090. Glenrothes group co-ordinator Lauren said: “Some wonderful human being has anonymously pledged an amount which has matched what we had already reached.

‘‘This whole process is restoring our faith in humanity. Fifers be proud. I am completely overwhelmed by the response.”

Scotland’s ‘unprecendented’ refugee response

A new task force, set up by the First Minister to coordinate Scotland’s response to the crisis in southern Europe was held on Tuesday.

The first meeting considered issues including housing, health services, language support, and social services for refugees as well as announcing the creation of an online hub to signpost members of the public to information about how they can donate or register their willingness to help.

Europe Minister Humza Yousaf said the task force heard from Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) that they have had an “overwhelming, unprecedented response” from local authorities in making their initial inquires.

Council Leader David Ross said, “Fife is ready and willing to play its part in providing a welcome and assistance to refugees fleeing the war in Syria.

“I am pleased that both UK and Scottish Governments have now indicated that they will do more to address this humanitarian crisis.

Fife Council has pledged to offer support and is actively assessing how many refugees we could offer to accommodate.”

How to help

Inundated by requests to help, the group has identified a number of drop off points across the county including: Fords Daly Legal, Evans Business Centre Monday-Friday 9am-1pm or 2pm-5pm; Torbain Church, Lindores Drive Sunday 12pm-1pm or Wednesday 12.30pm-1.30pm; Burntisland Primary School September 16-18, 3-4.30pm; Kinghorn Parish Church, Sept 20 9.30-11.30; The Beach House, Burntisland (former tea house on the prom).

CalAid badly need donations of trainers or hiking shoes size 41-46; tents, covers, tarpaulin, small and medium male jackets, socks, candles, belts.

Visit www.calaid.co.uk/ for a full list and packaging guidelines.

Abi Cornwall from the Burntisland team said: “We do not see CalAid Burntisland as being a project that will be ‘completed’.

“It is likely that the list of needed items will change once demand has been met and the refugee situation shifts from where it is now - but there will still be a need of some sort. With that in mind please keep checking CalAid Burntisland on Facebook to find out the latest on what’s needed.”