Tag Archive: French

Taking food, water and shelter to the world’s most vulnerable

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harehills refugee aid 2 (338x450)Life-changing trip complete by Harehills Dozen

A team of selfless volunteers from Leeds returned from their expedition to the French refugee camps last week, with ‘a new appreciation for the little things in life’.

Twelve friends from Harehills, under the banner “Harehills Refugee Aid’, completed the 300-mile-plus trip with four van-loads of supplies on Monday 4th January.

Seeing what life was in Calais’ infamous ‘Jungle’ and Dunkirk camps, the group provided a round-the-clock service to vulnerable refugees, including women and children.

After distributing the goods brought down from the UK, the team split up to buy-out nearby grocery stores and stock up huge quantities of food, which were once again taken to the camps.

harehills refugee aid 7 (338x450)With stories of united communities amidst the devastating conditions on the ground, the group shared their story with the Asian Express newspaper.

Shishu Ali, a consultant from Leeds, was one of the group members to complete the three day visit.

He said: “When you get to the camps and actually see so many kids running around, you get a renewed sense of attachment to your own family.

“Nobody would want their children to have to grow up in these conditions. Some of them could hardly move because they were so cold.

“It made us more determined to carry out our work, and especially reach the vulnerable women and children who didn’t necessarily come out of their tents when food parcels were distributed.”

In total, the Harehills team handed out thousands of food packs and filled kitchens in both Dunkirk and Calais during their three-day trip.

harehills refugee aid 4 (281x500)Buying almost every essential they could get their hands on from local stores and big supermarkets, they continuously filled their vans to capacity, bringing goods to the refugees.

One story which sticks in Shishu’s mind involved an ‘act of random kindness’ following the call to prayer at a French mosque.

“In one shop we literally bought everything,” he said. “Outside we decided to make food parcels, yet after doing around 40 or 50 we knew it was going to take too long.

“That is when a complete stranger offered to help. After that three more joined in from the nearby mosque and we soon ended up with two large teams, packing bags, after people had finished their prayers.

“It was a random act of kindness. When it came to handing out the bags at camp, people said we had an ‘endless van of supplies’ because of the amount of goods we had managed to purchase.”

The group were praised by a number of charity groups during their time in the camps, with some commenting that they thought ‘Harehills Refugee Aid’ were a charity.

harehills refugee aid 6 (338x450)Mukid Ali has previously completed two trips to help with the aid efforts in France’s ever-growing refugee camps.

Seeing numbers increase by almost tenfold since his first visit, he also praised the local group’s dedication who ensured as many people as possible received something from their vans.

“On my first visit, there were about 300 people in the camp,” he said. “Second time I went there was 1,200 to 1,500 and last week we must have seen at least 3,000 people.

“The camp is literally full. It has expanded from a small area to stretch right out to the roadside, yet no extra facilities have been made available. There are still just two taps in the whole camp and one toilet per 150 people.”

He added: “When it came to distribution, queues were arranged at the van for men and women, yet there were still people who could not leave their tents.

harehills refugee aid 5 (281x500)“This is when we decided to take the parcels directly to women and children. Their gratitude was amazing and I was even able to reconnect with a family I met during my previous two trips.”

The group explained how thoughts of life in the UK also crossed the minds of all involved on a regular basis.

“I’m a family man and have kids myself,” Sajad Sajawal said. “To see some of the children in these camps, being forced to live in filthy condition, there are no words to describe that feeling.

“We made an extra effort to help the children and they really do make you appreciate the little things in life.

“Simply handing them an orange would be enough to put a smile on their face so we made sure every child was smiling before we left.”  

Now back in Leeds, the volunteers say they are committed to continuing their community work, both locally and overseas.

Rebranding themselves as ‘Harehills Community Aid’, Sajawal added: “When we were in France, we saw people of all races, religions and backgrounds working in unity.

“Volunteers from across Europe are working together to help refugees and this humanitarian concept is what we want to continue here in Leeds.

“We have big plans for the future.”harehills refugee aid 3 (800x600)


French forces strike in Syria

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ATTACK: French president, Francois Hollande, said the future of Syria cannot continue under the control of current leader, President Bashar al-Assad

ATTACK: French president, Francois Hollande, said the future of Syria cannot continue under the control of current leader, President Bashar al-Assad

Hollande approves attack for ‘safety’ of French and Syrian civilians

French fighter jets destroyed an Islamic State (IS) training camp last weekend in what was the European nation’s first attack on Syria.

On Sunday 27th September, air strikes were carried out in the eastern region of the war-torn nation to prevent IS forces from carrying out attacks against ‘French interests’ and to protect Syrian civilians.

Previously, France had only struck IS targets in neighbouring Iraq, whilst providing limited logistical support to Syrian rebels it considers to be moderate, including Kurds.

Speaking ahead of a United Nations General Assembly in New York, French President, Francois Hollande, confirmed the attack.

“France struck in Syria this morning [at] an Islamic State training camp which threatened the security of our country,” Mr Hollande told reporters.

The 61-year-old added that six fighter jets had destroyed their targets near the area of Deir ez-Noir and did not rule out the possibility of more operations being carried out in upcoming weeks.

France had initially feared strikes in Syria could be counter-productive and could strengthen President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting a rebellion against his rule since 2011.

However, following a series of deadly attacks by Islamist militants in France this year, including the killing of 12 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo publications, President Hollande and the French government have taken a stronger stance against the extremists.

In addition, Paris has become alarmed by IS gains in northern Syria and the possibility of France being sidelined in negotiations to reach a political solution in Syria.

A French diplomatic source added that Paris needed to be one of the ‘hitters’ in Syria - those taking direct military action - to legitimately take part in any negotiations for a political solution to the conflict.

Mr Hollande said he would support those efforts and France would hold bilateral meetings throughout the week with key players in the Syria crisis before a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Friday.

“France doesn't sideline anybody, but the future of Syria cannot pass through President Bashar al-Assad,” he said.