FOLLOWING three weeks of hard graft, the Shetland Solidarity with Refugees group has packed up two trailer-loads of aid ready for shipping to the mainland – from where it is to be distributed to refugee camps around Europe and possibly beyond.
A total of 114 sleeping bags, 80 tents and 57 bedrolls and ground sheets were among the donations, along with numerous pallets containing clothes, food and other essentials.
The supplies were collected from around 16 drop-off points throughout the islands from Unst to Fair Isle. The Staney Hill Hall in Lerwick opened its doors for a few hours on Saturday and took in a huge quantity of donations.
A total of just over £1,500 has been raised through a Just Giving appeal, which will help cover the cost of transporting Shetland donations from Inverness to refugee camps.
The first batch of supplies was due to be shipped south by ferry on Wednesday night and the remainder early next week – with Shetland Transport, Northwards and Serco NorthLink all offering their services free of charge.
The group said around three quarters of the clothes gathered were for men, which is what the CalAid humanitarian appeal had said was “urgently needed”.
Those involved in Shetland Solidarity with Refugees are going to take a few days’ rest, but are determined that the islands’ efforts to help won’t stop here.
A spokeswoman said: “The organisers of Shetland Solidarity with Refugees would like to give a special, heartfelt shout-out to Shetland Transport, Northwards and Serco NorthLink for waiving all transportation costs, enabling us to send two trailer loads of donations from Shetland for distribution to displaced people across Europe.
“We are also indebted to Peterson SBS who gave us the use of an empty office block to store and sort the many donations that came flooding in over the past three weeks.”
The group also paid thanks to a host of people and organisations (see below) that played their part in making the campaign a success and also to “the Shetland public who gave so generously, and to all the amazing volunteers who worked so tirelessly to make this happen. Apologies to anyone we may have missed.”
Rita Smith; Nimble Fingers; Ninian; Shetland College; Mid Yell School; Burravoe School; Cullivoe School; Dunrossness School; Brae School; Unst Partnership; Sandison’s Unst; Hillswick Shop; Hillswick Wildlife Centre; Queen’s Hotel; Gemini accommodation ship; Fair Isle folk; Bixter Hall; Burra Hall; Staney Hill Hall; Tagon Stores; LHD; Intersport; Symbister Hall; Tesco; Boots; Thulecraft; Beervanna; Technip (for pallets); Kazia Carbry; Sound Service Station; Clydesdale Bank; Toll Clock Post Office; Muckle Roe Hall; Annie and Evie who sold their Hama bead creations; Donald Murray and his brave Guga tasters; Tina Grant; Wendy Sinclair; Everyone who donated to the Just Giving page.
Mundell: unlikely high numbers of refugees will be sent to islands
ON A VISIT to Shetland on Wednesday, Scottish secretary of state David Mundell defended his UK Government, which has been condemned for only agreeing to accept 20,000 people from existing refugee camps over the next five years.
Shetland’s proportionate share of that number would potentially leave it in line to take in little over one person a year, though how refugees are to be spread throughout the country is yet to be determined.
Asked if the UK Government, which controls who comes in and out of the country, could do more to enable communities that wish to help out, Mundell responded: “We are open to all offers of help, and we’re coordinating that in Scotland through COSLA and working closely with the Scottish Government.
“What is clear is that the people that are coming will need a lot of help and support, and you really do need a critical mass of support to be available to ensure that can be delivered.”
He said people who have experienced extreme trauma such as sexual violence would need to be catered for in areas where the appropriate treatment services were available.
“So whilst it’s not impossible that people could come to Shetland or indeed rural communities, it’s less likely because of the high level of ongoing support that they’ll need.
“But I’m sure that Shetland council, working with other councils in COSLA across Scotland, will be able to contribute to the exercise. But it won’t be done on the sort of divvying up of people on a pro-rata basis. It’ll be looking at the needs that people have and how those can be best met.”
Asked whether he felt the UK could do better than accepting 20,000 refugees in five years – numbers which pale in comparison to what some other Western European countries are accepting – Mundell replied: “Our priority, as the Prime Minister has set out this week, is to resolve the conflict in Syria so that people can go back to their own country.
“That’s what the resolution of this matter is, it isn’t about bringing everyone from the refugee camps to other parts of the world, it is about allowing them to return to their own country.”
However he conceded that the civil war in Syria, which began in March 2011 and has seen nearly 4 million people displaced and over 200,000 killed, would not be easily resolved.
“Obviously it’s clear from discussions at the UN that that still remains incredibly challenging because not least Russia doesn’t necessarily have the same views about how the situation might be resolved as other countries, but we’ve got to keep trying because that’s what people need – to be able to return to their own countries and to the lives they had before all of this began.”