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‘Sickening’ vandalism of refugee donations

Many of the items donated for sending on to refugees have been destroyed.

VOLUNTEERS who organise the collection of aid items to help tackle the global refugee crisis have been left feeling “utterly sickened” by a senseless act of vandalism at their Lerwick collection point.

The Shetland Solidarity with Refugees group has regularly arranged for donations to be collected and sorted at Brevik House on Lerwick’s South Road for the past 18 months or so.

But when volunteer Rita Smith went along to the former NHS offices to collect some items on Tuesday evening she discovered that it had been broken into, with items smashed up and strewn all over the place. 

She was “seriously annoyed, disappointed and utterly sickened” by the vandalism and said that the refugee solidarity group would no longer be able to receive Items at Brevik as it was now unsafe.

Lights have been smashed, glass has scattered into boxes and many of the items people had donated have been broken. 

Rita said the vandalism must have occurred sometime between Saturday teatime and Tuesday teatime, when she discovered the damage and contacted the police.

A JustGiving page has been launched to help the group get back on track following the setback. The refugee appeal is described as “Shetland’s way of helping to improve conditions for the people living in refugee camps” and to ensure people have access to shelter, food and warmth.

Police in the islands said they were investigating a “crime of malicious damage”, with both the property itself and items being stored within the building damaged.

A police spokesman said: “This is a particularly despicable crime as many of the items had been donated by the local community for the Shetland Solidarity with Refugees group.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact the police by dialling 101, attending Lerwick Police Station or anonymously calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Volunteer Rita Smith said she was "utterly sickened" by the act of vandalism.

It comes after police issued an appeal for witnesses to break-ins at Sound Primary School and at a store shed next to Alex Morrison’s shop, also both in Lerwick. Those vandalisms took place between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Shetland Solidarity with Refugees volunteers prior to setting off for Calais last summer. Photo: Shetland News/Neil Riddell.

Rita said the refugee solidarity group – which first began collecting in late 2015 – would communicate via social media once it cleared up and sorted the mess, as well as organising a new collection point. 

“This won’t stop us or put us off, we’ll be back with more updates as soon as possible,” she said.

Shetland Solidarity with Refugees took one van-load of donations all the way to Calais last June, driving there via a ferry to Belgium to circumvent a ban imposed by the French authorities.

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