How You Can Help The Syrian Refugees

By James O Malley on at

Over the last week or so Britain appears to have finally cottoned on to the fact that there is a refugee crisis as people are fleeing the war in Syria and making the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean to the safety of Europe. It is a big issue so you can be forgiven for feeling powerless as, after all, what exactly can we do to stop the slaughter or mitigate the suffering? Luckily, some organisations are already at work - but they could use our help. Here's what you can do to help the refugees.

Help Fund A Search & Rescue Boat

As you'll know from the tragic news of recent weeks, crossing the Mediterranean is an incredibly dangerous journey and it is a big area for search and rescue to patrol. The organisation MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for an additional rescue boat.

$3m is needed to buy and renovate a craft suitable for rescue in what it is calling "The People's Armada". The charity says that last year it rescued over 11,000 people, and an extra boat will enable it to save even more.

Just $30 (about £19) will buy an extra life-jacket and $200 (roughly £131) will help pay for medical supplies. Perhaps most intriguingly, $10,000 (around £6,555) can pay the operating costs for a day on the use of a drone that can be used to cover greater distances much faster and help spot people who might be in trouble using thermal and imaging capabilities.

You can contribute to the IndieGogo campaign here.

Offer Your Spare Room (or Spare House) to Refugees

If you would like to do what Bob Geldof says that he is doing, then you can offer your spare room to refugees too.

If you're a landlord then check out CitizenUK which is looking to house families in empty properties. Better still, it might not even cost you that much, as the first 12 months rent will be paid by the European Union.

If you only have a spare room, then you too can still help. Refugees Welcome has been described as AirBNB for Refugees and will help you work with charities to place people. It hasn't launched in the UK yet, though the expectation is that it will do imminently.

Donate Stuff that Refugees Need

A campaign called Calais Action has been setup to help the refugees just over the channel in Calais.

With collection and drop-off points all over the country according to a post on the Facebook page yesterday, the organisers are looking for donations of shoes, tents, travelling bags, candles (or other lighting equipment), jackets, and food.

If you've got an old mobile phone, why not donate that too, as it could help a refugee stay in touch with their friends and family.

You can find more details on Facebook.

Petition the Government

After a slow start, the government does finally appear to be responding to the crisis, but there is no harm in giving them a kick up the arse by signing this petition which urges them to "accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK".

At the time there are over 400,000 virtual signatures and any extra support will no doubt be welcomed. Whilst the refugee crisis is considered important by those of us who inhabit our own liberal social media bubbles, in the real world there is still a surprising amount of hostility towards the concept of "helping others".

Show Solidarity

If you live in or near London, this Saturday a large march is being held to express solidarity with the refugees and to urge the government to hurry up and help more people. As marches go, it doesn't appear to be making a particularly contentious point or taking a particularly partisan view (it isn't clear who is organising it but it appears to be a grassroots effort) - but will be a good demonstration of how many people care about the issue. So go along, do some chanting and hope some good comes of it.

The details are on Facebook.

Donate Your Cash

And finally there is always one thing that charities could use more of: Cold, hard, cash.

While there are a number of different charities all taking donations, a good place to start is The UN Refugee Agency, which has been providing food, medicine and other relief to refugees both still inside and outside of Syria.

Image: Rebecca Harms