MSP visits refugee donation point

Hebrides for Humanity volunteers with Alasdair Allan MSP
Hebrides for Humanity volunteers with Alasdair Allan MSP

Hundreds of residents have been dropping off food and equipment at a storeroom in Stornoway for the Syrian refugee crisis.

MSP Alasdair Allan paid a visit for an hour’s shift and pupils from the Nicolson Institute also lent their time packing boxes and doing odd jobs, showing that the youth of the community are strongly entrenched in the spirit of generosity and kindness typical of the Islands.

The initiative has really taken off since it was founded by Christine Macintosh, who has found that she and her team are inundated with boxes of items. Donations include toiletries, tents, clothes, shoes, and all manner of items designed to help the refugees in their destitution.

Christine told The Gazette on their visit that she was incredibly grateful at the amount people had donated and to all those who had volunteered. She added that although it is not a specifically political effort, they were very happy to see Alasdair Allan arrive to do an hour’s work.

People continued to stream into the store-room on Bells Road throughout the day, with locals offering their vehicles to take the donations onwards.

A fellow volunteer commented online: “Really great to see all the donations being handed in by folk today. Well done to Christine Macintosh for getting this going.”

In the end, everything should make its way to a central collection point, after which it will arrive in Calais and it is hoped, say organisers, that other refugee camps will also receive donations.

The Glasgow Night Centre has said it will be one of the places that will take anything considered not suitable for travel, such as items too bulky or fragile. Those extra items will be distributed amongst the poor of Glasgow, ensuring minimal waste in donations.

The MSP said: “I’m here to do a shift to support what is a great event and to show I support the local community. I think this is a fantastic project that shows that the tradition of kindness and generosity amongst the Western Isles people continues.

“I don’t want to politicise this event but I would ask that the UK Government let these clearly destitute people into the country so Scotland can help them; it is obvious from what we have seen that they are desperate and in need of help.”

The unrest in Syria may have calmed militarily, but this current migrant crisis represents an aftershock of war. These tremors continue to disrupt and displace the lives of millions of men, women, and children. It is one of the biggest migrations of people since World War II. While a long-term solution is a bone of contention across the Continent, there is a general agreement that immediate humanitarian relief is a must.

Prime Minister David Cameron continues to call on all European countries to share the burden of a man-made problem, whilst First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is asking for migration policy to better reflect the immediacy of the crisis.

Christine Macintosh’s Hebrides for Humanity effort is a great example of ordinary, or perhaps extraordinary, people coming together to fill the gap in providing relief while governments undertake the bureaucratic business of arranging effective policy.