HUMANITARIAN aid workers from Portsmouth have issued an urgent appeal to the city to help desperate refugees living in squalid conditions.
The plea comes after a devastating blaze ripped through the refugee camp in Dunkirk, France, a week ago.
A team from charitable group Noah’s Land were at the site just hours before it was burnt down, having transported four lorries packed full of aid.
They now say scores of asylum seekers – including more than 100 children – were living in horrific conditions, with some left without the most basic of supplies to survive.
Alana Shihadeh, 37, of South Parade, Southsea, was one of the team who made the trip overseas.
Speaking of the conditions at the camp, she said: ‘We have gone so far back in time it’s like being in a concentration camp with the people wearing striped pyjama shorts and living in wooden huts in absolute desperation.
‘We’re only in France and this situation is happening. It’s just awful.
‘People have no shoes or the ones who do have odd shoes. Their feet are bleeding. There’s a deaf mute man trying to tell me his shoe size; children are being left by themselves – there’s 120 unaccompanied at the camp; disabled people aren’t cared for. It’s all so incredibly sad.’
Mrs Shihadeh added that much of the aid that has been donated was not reaching those in the camp.
She claimed to see warehouses full of full of clothes, food, toys and other supplies but said only a small fraction of this was trickling out to those in need.
‘The charities’ warehouses are so stacked it’s a joke. It’s just not right. It’s disgusting,’ she added.
‘We came over with four truck-loads of donations. But when we asked to give out three pairs of size 43 shoes we were told that they couldn’t give them to us.
‘The donations are just being wasted in the warehouses when there are people desperately in need.’
Mrs Shihadeh is a director of A-Plan Development Management Ltd, based in Limberline Spur, in Hilsea.
She said her team of volunteers were eager to head back to the camp and try to rebuild the site.
And she added she was keen to make sure they brought their own donations which they would personally hand out to the needy.
She is now appealing for help from the community of Portsmouth to spare whatever donations they can.
In particular, the group is appealing for toys, clothes, shoes, toiletries and sleeping bags. They are also looking to see if anyone can spare a truck to help transport the goods to France.
Mrs Shihadeh added the situation was already at crisis point, with women on the camp terrified to go to the toilets at night, fearing they could be raped.
And she claimed there were more than 100 children, some as young as seven, who were alone at the site and left to fend for themselves.
She said: ‘The unaccompanied children have fled from dangerous situations in their home country only to enter other dangerous situations in getting to Europe through smugglers and traffickers.
‘Since the camp fire so many children are unaccounted for and who knows whose hands they’ll end up in.
‘These children deserve a life without having to fight for it.
‘It’s an inexcusable situation and those who tolerate it should feel ashamed.
‘Our immigration laws need urgent change and those children with extended family in the UK must be allowed in.
‘I couldn’t bear for my children to endure one minute of what these children have suffered and I will stand up for them.’
Organisations which have previously shown their support to the group’s appeals include Portsmouth Mosque, Don’t Hate Donate and Millets in Southsea.
To help with the latest plea, email firstname.lastname@example.org.