Huge support for refugees gathering in isles
The campaign to help refugees is gathering steam with a silent vigil planned for next Saturday at the Market Cross as part of a nationwide movement.
The Facebook page Shetland Solidarity with Refugees had also gathered over 1,200 likes within 24 hours of being published and has been inundated with offers of items and help that will form part of a consignment of clothing, shoes and cooking equipment that will be delivered to refugees in Calais.
The Hamnavoe hall is opening its porch as a collection point for the “vital supplies desperately needed by the survivors in Calais” and will be open today from 9-7pm, tomorrow from 9-4pm and Sunday from 9-7pm.
And the Booth in Hillswick is hosting a blues and poetry gig tonight with the “amazing Shetland bluesman” Thomas Jones and a “resident mystery poet” from 8pm, with all proceeds going to Shetland Solidarity with Refugees.
The page was set up by Lerwick woman Tina Grant after it had been discussed with her friends including Yell artist Jeanette Nowak, who had been “agitating” about the need to do something for some time.
Mrs Nowak said : “Things have been a bit mental since the Facebook page was set up but it’s fine to see that folk care. Shetland folk have big hearts.
“This is not a problem that’s going to be solved overnight, but this is a start, and we can plan lots of fundraising for the future.”
The page administrators will be having a meeting on Monday to discuss the best way forward for the campaign, with logistical hurdles, such as how to get the goods to the refugees.
Mrs Nowak said that they had been in contact with a similar group in Aberdeen who have agreed to take the Shetland donations to Calais in their container.
The administrators expressed a “huge thank you to everyone who has ‘liked’ the page so far. It’s overwhelming at how much support and community spirit that Shetland shows. Also, thank you for the patience, we’re hoping to have plenty more information by the start of the week for volunteering, ideas, etc. So please share amongst Facebook friends and if you have any ideas or can provide help, please get in touch!”
Meanwhile, Shetland Sees Syria is planning an hour-long silent vigil between 12pm and 1pm on Saturday at the Market Cross and has appealed to the public to join.
Participants will be lighting candles as a mark of respect for all those who have “passed away whilst trying to seek a safe place”. There will also be a collection for the charity Calaid on the day – more details of the organisation (or if you wish to make a direct donation) can be found at www.calaid.co.uk
MSP Tavish Scott said that people across Shetland wanted to help Syrian refugees by offering assistance and accommodation. He has had many messages from islanders asking what Shetland can do to help as TV pictures showed Syrian families in terrible conditions, in distress and in the image of Aylan Kurdi, a young boy found drowned on a Turkish beach.
Mr Scott welcomed today’s meeting convened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of humanitarian agencies, councils and party leaders.
Mr Scott said: “No one can ignore the scenes on our television screens, social media and the newspapers from a Turkish beach of a drowned young Syrian boy. Any parent, any individual has been affected by this terrible scene. Nor can anyone fail to recognise the bravery of German Chancellor Merkel facing an anti-immigrant group and telling them that helping refugees is the right thing to do.
“I have had various messages from across Shetland. People want to help. Shetland has a strong, caring capacity for people in need. So too does Scotland and the rest of the UK. So the Prime Minister should show some backbone and take a lesson from the German Chancellor rather than panicking about UKIP and their horrible anti-immigrant language.
“The UK should help Syrian refugees. Scotland can play its part as can Shetland.”
He called for a plan from today’s meeting that would “allow us all” to play a positive role in helping refugees from a war stricken part of the world, “with no end in sight.”