REFUGEES are welcome’ is the clear message from hundreds of West Sussex residents who have signed petitions in response to the growing migrant crisis.
Harrowing images depicting the body of three-year old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach prompted a series of petitions on campaign website 38 Degrees.
More than 700 signatures have been received on separate petitions for Chichester, Horsham, Worthing, Bognor Regis, Shoreham, Steyning, Haywards Heath, Crawley, Mid Sussex and Rustington.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced this afternoon Britain would resettle up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years.
“We don’t want Britain to be the kind of country that turns its back as people drown in their desperation to flee places like Syria,” they state.
Community spirit has been evident across the county, with countless collections set up to gather vital supplies for the thousands of refugees camped in Calais.
Worthing-based youth organisation Blueprint 22 is collecting items across Sussex, which they will personally deliver to Calais next month.
Adult volunteers, including founder Amanda Baker, visited Calais last week, delivering a range of supplies to the refugee camp known as ‘The Jungle’.
She said: “They are living in extreme poverty. We can’t really grasp the level.
“They are in a desperate state.”
The October trip will see some of the organisation’s youth trustees travel to Calais – but they will not enter the camp and instead help pack items for distribution.
Elsewhere, Arundel pub landlady Nevin Jinha, of St Mary’s Gate Inn, in London Road, has been accepting camping supplies, men’s shoes and other donations, which have flooded in from generous residents.
Terri Shanks, from Tarring, has opened up her vacant industrial unit at the Martello Enterprise Centre, in Courtwick Lane, Littlehampton, for storage of donations.
She also plans to deliver the supplies to Calais and has raised more than £700 to help with transport costs and additional items in an online fundraising campaign.
On social media, a Sussex-wide Facebook support network – ‘Sussex Refugee Solidarity’ – was created on Friday by parent Alison Philips, 32, from Worthing, to lobby politicians on the issue. Other pages, including ‘Worthing Refugee Aid’, were also launched, with members planning further donation efforts.
Mrs Philips said: “It had been a bit too easy to ignore what was going on but when all the horrific images started appearing of the boy on the beach it felt like a bit of a call to action. As a new mum I felt like I could imagine that being my child.
“There has been a massive range of people, from doctors and nurses to carers and stay at home mums and we have been absolutely inundated with requests.
Ahsan Ahmedi, leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, has called upon international organisations to treat the crisis as a global issue and not just as a European issue.
He said a proper co-ordinated plan is urgently needed to distribute the refugees globally, rather than only focusing on Europe.
He added: “Genuine refugees are facing great difficulties. They have been forced to leave their countries due to the intolerable conditions and so should be treated with love, compassion and kindness.
“The entire world will have to show compassion and open hearts for this crisis to be handled. Rather than looking at their own interests only, nations will have to consider their moral responsibilities to those who are suffering.”
Blueprint 22 is collecting donations from across the county. For more information contact Veronica Carver on 07713 564707.
To donate to Terri’s cause, visit www.gofundme.com/terrishanks
Visit http://www.sussexrefugeesolidarity.uk to get involved in helping the community effort.
West Sussex County Council has been approached for comment in reaction to the petitions.