A GROUP set up in Shetland to provide help to refugees has helped create several more drop-off points for donations and is to launch a crowdfunding page to cover the cost of shipping supplies to Calais.
Shetland Solidarity with Refugees had a “fruitful” meeting on Monday during which members identified a clear purpose and focus for the group.
The group has acquired a storage facility in Lerwick where donated supplies can be processed, sorted and shipped.
Donations have been flooding in to Burra Hall and Bixter Hall over the weekend – including clothes, shoes, food, toiletries, tents, mats and blankets.
A host of businesses and other organisations have agreed to become collection points for donations: The Unst Partnership office (1 Hagdale); Cullivoe, Mid Yell and Burravoe schools; Hillswick Shop and Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary charity shop; Muckle Roe Hall (next week); Tagon Stores in Voe; Nimble Finger at the Toll Clock, Ninian on Commercial Street in Lerwick; the Bop Shop (12 September), and Dunrossness Primary School.
Negotiations are taking place with shipping companies with a view to taking items to the refugee camp in Calais.
Group spokeswoman Wendy Sinclair said any further assistance with shipping would be appreciated. Information on a crowdfunding page will be released once it has been set up.an hour-long silent vigil at the Market Cross at noon on Saturday (12 September). Further details are available on the Shetland Sees Syria page.
For more information and updates, including more details about drop-off points, visit the Shetland Solidarity with Refugees group.
Anyone who can offer help is encouraged to contact Wendy on 07544 265753 or send a direct message to the group’s Facebook page.
SIC leader Gary Robinson said the refugee crisis was “focusing political thought across Europe, the UK and Scotland, and there’s obviously a critical role to be played by government at all levels to tackle the situation in a coordinated manner.
“Shetland Islands Council, along with all Scotland’s local authorities, will play its part in that,” he said. “Providing accommodation is just one aspect of the response to this crisis and the provision of services necessary to support refugees will also need to be carefully planned and coordinated.
Robinson said the council was working with local authority umbrella body COSLA, the Scottish Government and other agencies “to identify resources and capacity, and we’ll be doing all we can to support the work of the task force which was announced by the First Minister”.
He added: “As ever, Shetlanders are doing what they can in the face of this unfolding humanitarian crisis, and I know I speak on behalf of the council in paying tribute to the volunteers who are working so hard to raise funds and collect essential items for the people caught up in this unprecedented situation.”
Meanwhile, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to recognise the changing public mood towards welcoming asylum seekers. He wants the UK leader to convene a cross-party summit on the refugee crisis.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, Carmichael said he welcomed the “change in government policy in recent days and weeks”.
“The Prime Minister might no longer be describing refugees as a ‘swarm’, but there is still a lot that he could be doing to catch up with public opinion here,” the MP said.
“We should not be raiding our international development budget to pay for this, we should not be restricting our help to those who are currently in the country, and we should not be resisting efforts to build a common EU position.”
He added: “The UK Government has done a lot of good work in helping refugees in the region, especially around Syria. I give them all credit for that. The fact is that they need to do more now. They need to respond to the thousands of people already in Europe.
“…this debate has been a poisonous one too often in the past. The Prime Minister has a chance now to build a consensus by involving all parties in the creation of policy that unites rather than divides our country.”