Statement by Robina Qureshi and Eric Kempson in response to news that the European Union is drawing up plans to criminalise charities and volunteers who help refugees arriving on Greek islands
Eric Kempson, who, along with his family, spearheaded a humanitarian initiative in response to thousands of refugees arriving on the 10km of beach in front of his home at Efthalou, Lesvos, said:
"If we were helping during the holocaust then we would be classed as the resistance and the EU would be the Nazis. They are following the logic of fascism by telling us to let people drown on our doorstep and the way Greece is being victimised is disgusted. We are not going to stop helping. We will keep on going and we need the world’s help to do it. They are not going to stop us acting with humanity."
Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, the refugee homelessness charity, said:
"If the EU plans to criminalise charities and volunteers who help refugees arriving on Lesvos or any of the Greek islands, does this mean that are also going to criminalise and arrest the UNHCR, OXFAM, Doctors of the World, Doctors of the World, International Rescue, the Spanish Lifeguards, the Greek Lifeguards, Ai Weiwei, Eric Kempson, Philippa Kempson, Ken Loach, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Corbyn, Trade unions, politicians, old age pensioners, students and medics as well? So they are going to let refugees drown and imprison the world’s humanitarians? And how will the history books record it? The fact is we have a growing movement of charities and volunteers from across the world who are in danger of being criminalised for doing the right thing and resisting the EU's de facto genocide of refugees. We are making a significant difference on the island by supplying funds for lifeguards, medical facilities and shelter, as well as doctors, volunteers, clothing and medical supplies. We need voices from across the world to speak out and challenge the EU’s secret plans. We are not going to stop helping."
"The EU leaders needs to confront the fact that when you drop bombs on other people’s countries and proceed to lay claim on their oil, minerals and resources, then you create refugees. And when you correspondingly put up borders and razor wire to prevent refugees reaching safety and hope, then you create a bottleneck and the illusion of a mass. We have millions of visitors entering Europe for so many reasons, but war refugees are refused those safe routes. Why? It’s time to provide a safe humanitarian corridor for refugees, to provide safe routes into Europe and allow the movement of people.
"We call on people to continue to donate to our refugee crisis appeal (see note to editors). The EU is putting out this twisted logic that we must not “encourage” more people to come. The reason that refugees are crossing dangerous waters is not because we are giving them 'a bottle of water.' They are coming because they are being tortured, bombed, starved and degraded without any sense of hope, and want to re-join their families who are already in Europe."
- The Times (London) January 30, 2016 Saturday Tourists who help drowning migrants face prosecution http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/europe/article4678348.ece
- Our work in Lesvos: Positive Action in Housing has raised £44,000 of a £50,000 target to provide infrastructure support for receiving refugees arriving off boats at Lesvos. Since October, we have been sending an international team of volunteer medics, clinicians and general volunteers to Lesvos. On average we have 15 volunteers present on the island each week, including doctors from all over the world providing 24/7 medical cover. We have just given a significant donation from our Refugee Crisis Appeal to the Lifeguard Hellas (Greek Lifeguards). We have agreed another significant donation to Proactivia (the Spanish Lifeguards) . Both groups are on 24/7 emergency alert at Lesvos to prevent refugee deaths and bring in boats safely. We have also paid for the lifting of ten boats which were creating a hazard for new arrivals and the local community. Positive Action is also funding the Hope Centre at Lesvos for one year, with donations to its renovation coming from benefactors around the world . The Centre , a former disused hotel, is being set up as a place that "treats human beings like human beings". It has a medical facility and warming tents put in place to receive and stabilise wet refugees arriving off boats. There are currently 1,500 to 2,000 arrivals at Lesvos each day and the hope Centre received its first 120 refugees yesterday, providing warmth, shelter and hot food as the begin their journey to safety.
- Eric Kempson has lived on the Greek Island of Lesvos with his wife and daughter for the last 16 years. They spearheaded a humanitarian initiative alongside local fishermen and local people in response to the biggest humanitarian crisis to face Europe since WW2. In 2015 over 500,000 refugees landed on the 10 miles of coast near their home. Eric said, "one day I was walking along the beach and spotted a baby lifejacket and it just got me, and that was it, we had to do something". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UWa9u-W6eU
- Positive Action in Housing is a Scottish based refugee homelessness charity with a global remit. Positive Action in Housing began twenty years ago. We working with people, communities and non-profit organisations to enable everyone to have an equal chance to live, work and grow, free from poverty, homelessness or racism. We offer free advice, information and practical support in order to help rebuild and stabilise lives. We pro-actively welcome refugees in Europe and those seeking asylum from war torn countries. We run a free, confidential and impartial housing advice service. We provide money advice and financial skills. We support migrants in the UK to gain the necessary paperwork to secure employment, self-employment and stabilise their lives. We run an Emergency Hardship Fund for those in greatest need.
- Positive Action in Housing provides free shelter for destitute refugees and their families through 2,800 plus refugee hosts across the UK and Europe through our pioneering refugee hosting scheme Room for Refugees (www.roomforrefugees.com). We provide volunteering and sessional work opportunities. We inform social policy from a user-led perspective. We deliver training and best practice. We lead human rights campaigns and humanitarian appeals, most recently for refugees trying to reach Europe. We routinely highlight individual injustices to increase public awareness. We persistently challenge the xenophobic rhetoric directed at refugees by government bodies. To continue this work with autonomy, we depend on the support of government, charitable trusts, our members and individuals, trade unions and academic bodies. Positive Action in Housing is independent of any political group, religious creed, ideology or economic faction. To make a regular donation to our work, go to www.paih.org/makearegulardonation
Refugee Crisis Appeal
Set up by the charity Positive Action in Housing to provide direct assistance to refugees coming off boats. This appeal will directly alleviate the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe's history. The EU’s de facto policy is to let refugees drown to stop others coming. The UK Govt and the EU are deliberately flouting their obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees. The U.K. has withdrawn its search and rescue missions. The EU is paying Turkey to stop people crossing the Mediterranean and Turkish coast guards are reported to be abusing refugees, smashing boats and engines. The fear is that refugees will cross during the night and use more tortuous routes, putting themselves and their families at further risk. It is being left to individuals like Eric Kempson and his family to lead rescue efforts to save the lives of thousands of men women and children crossing the Mediterranean at the mercy of human traffickers. Every penny of this appeal will go towards saving the lives of refugees trying to reach safety in Europe.
Volunteer Appeal – Lesvos
Positive Action in Housing has been providing volunteers on Lesvos since October 2015, and now has over 200 volunteers registered, to perform a chain of support to the Kempsons as the boats come in to help thousands of refugees coming in on boats in what is the biggest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen since World War 2. This is a coordinated voluntary aid effort. NO governments are doing anything. Greece is the frontline of refugees fleeing Syria and half of all arrivals are in Mytilene. We want a round the clock medical presence to save as many lives as possible while our "leaders" sit on their hands. If you want to be part of an international team of volunteers supporting efforts to save lives of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, then complete the simple, online application form now.
Resources And Info:
www.paih.org - our website. https://www.facebook.com/SyrianRefugeeCrisisLesvosEricKempsonAppeal/ to volunteer in Lesvos – doctors, nurses, general volunteers. www.roomforrefugees.com for refugee hosting