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Campaigner’s plea for north-east to support stranded refugees

Aberdeen Must Act says refugees and asylum seekers on the Aegean islands have been living in sub-zero temperatures.
Aberdeen Must Act says refugees and asylum seekers on the Aegean islands have been living in sub-zero temperatures.

A north-east campaigner is urging the public to back a message of support for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers stranded in freezing conditions.

Around 15,000 people who fled to Europe amid conflict in the Middle East have been left stuck in “overcrowded, inhumane” camps in the Greek Aegean Islands.

Refugees and asylum seekers say their makeshift shelters cannot handle the winter weather, with some left in “ankle deep” water every time it rains.

While some organisations have been providing emergency relief – with items including blankets, warm clothes and sleeping bags – organisation Aberdeen Must Act says this is not a “sustainable or adequate solution”.

Refugees and asylum seekers on Lesvos have been regularly flooded with dirty water.
Refugees and asylum seekers on Lesvos have been regularly flooded with dirty water.

Aboyne activist Isla Kitching is part of the group – one branch of the wider Europe Must Act campaign – and travelled to teach at a migrant camp on Chios herself in 2017.

She said the “undignified and cruel” conditions being faced by refugees and asylum seekers on the Aegean islands must come to an end.

Miss Kitching added: “We may have left the EU but we are still in Europe.

“We are asking our MPs to take action and for the UK to play our part in preventing unnecessary deaths and suffering at Europe’s border.

“We encourage people to write to their MP, we have a template to help, to show that there is public support for helping those stranded on the Aegean Islands.”

In recent days temperatures on Lesvos and Chios have fallen to below-freezing, making the already-difficult living conditions even more challenging.

A spokesman from the Moria Coronavirus Awareness Team, on the island of Lesvos, said: “When we talk in the tent, our mouth steam is visible. The children are crying from the cold and their lips are red.

“We wear all the clothes we have but still we freeze. There are no heaters and we cannot even make a fire because the wood is wet.

“The night should get colder and this weather they say will stay for three days”.

Europe Must Act has been campaigning for those stranded in camps on the edge of the continent to be rehomed in other countries since March 2020.

It has also been lobbying the EU to change its immigration policies.

The temperatures are so low on some Aegean islands that snow has been falling on mountaintops.
The temperatures are so low on some Aegean islands that snow has been falling on mountaintops.

In September an Early Day Motion (EDM) was lodged in the House of Commons, calling on the UK government to help relocate more asylum seekers and refugees.

While EDMs are generally not debated, they are used as a way to draw attention to an issue and highlight cross-party support for it.

So far it has 71 supporters, including Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn, who said: “We have a moral obligation not to turn our backs on vulnerable refugees and children who look to us for help and even more so at these extremely difficult times

“It is vital to lead by example and the UK must play its part in taking in its fair share of refugees and providing them with safety.

“Scotland and Aberdeen stand ready to play our part again and the SNP will continue to urge the UK Government to take a humane and welcoming approach to the resettlement of these refugees.

“That is why I supported the Early Day Motion in Parliament calling on the government to provide safety to refugees left stranded on the Aegean Islands.”

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