The Two Action Oriented Human Right Fighters I Met On the Boat!
While I was on my way to the Netherlands on January 15 2016, on a ferry heading from Dover to Dunkirk, I met two very important people who work as volunteers for a non-profit organization, Aid Box Convoy, based in Bristol, in the west of England.
This is an organization dedicated to helping those desperate refugees who have fled war zones and who are at present stranded in the freezing cold, trying by hook or crook to enter England but starving/living in the muddy refugee camps in France.
The names of the two young humanitarian workers I met on the ferry are Heather Young and Barnaby Luck. During the two-hour journey from the historic English port of Dover to the equally historic French coastal city of Dunkirk, I had a very interesting chat with both Heather and Barnaby about the nature of their organization and the voluntary work they do.
I learned that they were part of a group of volunteers based in Bristol working full time to provide practical assistance to newly arrived refugees, i.e. those people who have left war zones around the world and arrived in France with nothing on their back, hoping to enter the UK to start a new life there. But unfortunately, once they arrive in France, the refugees get stranded there for an indefinite period. Thus life in France for them becomes hellish, brutish, and nasty and, for some, especially the children and the vulnerable, very short. It is here that the practical, life-saving work of dedicated humanitarian workers such as Barnaby and Heather comes in.
I realized that, as far as language, culture, religion and physical appearance are concerned, these humanitarian workers have nothing in common with the people they are assisting in the downtrodden refugee camps of France other than their humanity.
I therefore ask of Eritreans such as myself, who share the same language, culture and national characteristics of many of the refugees and may even have relatives in the refugee camps: what have we done and what are we doing in terms of providing practical help and love to our stranded brothers and sisters at the gates of the UK?
The answer is that we are practically doing nothing to assist our refugee brothers and sisters sleeping in the jungle camps of Calais and Dunkirk without a roof over their head, without getting a proper meal even once a day, being humiliated and treated on a daily basis as if they were sub-humans by the UK and French police. This casts great shame on us Eritreans, especially those of us who live in the UK where it is only a stone’s throw from Calais and Dunkirk to our warm homes.
We Eritreans have clearly failed our people. The heroes and heroines are therefore the British nationals who I met on the ferry with their van fully packed with food, medicine, blankets, biscuits and dry milk, toys for small children, materials for making bunk beds and cooking utensils and mattresses to deliver to the needy (see picture).
I was really deeply moved and impressed by the humanitarian mission the two voluntary workers and their organization is engaged in without expecting anything in return other than the happiness and joy they receive from the charitable work they do.
In any case, after two hours’ journey by ferry, we arrived in Dunkirk and had to go our separate ways. They had to drive their fully packed van to the refugee camp to feed the hungry and clothe those sleeping in the freezing cold. I had to drive by myself through Belgium to the Netherlands, an eight-hour journey, to undertake the investigation of alleged sexual misconduct at the Eritrean Orthodox church in Rotterdam.
Dunkirk plays an important role in French history. It was here, on the beaches of Dunkirk, that more than 350,000 Allied troops, consisting mainly of French, Belgian and British soldiers, were encircled and besieged by the Nazi army at the beginning of World War Two, but were miraculously saved by small boats and brought to England. Obviously, this incident in Durkirk and the successful evacuation of the trapped soldiers in turn heralded the beginning of the end the Nazi occupation of Europe and its final defeat. Hence, Dunkirk remains a historically important place in France today.
As we said goodbye, I promised to Barnaby and Heather that, on my return to England, I would write a story of human interest about the wonderful humanitarian work they do, so that their exemplary work would be a practical example for Eritreans around the world to follow in order to help their own kith and kin.
So, my fellow Eritreans please be generous and give monetary support to this group engaged in a worthy humanitarian mission.
Here is their address:
Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis