During these challenging months we, like others, have been trying to respond to the dominating COVID-19 crisis. Everyone is being impacted so much, and those who live in the most precarious situations are impacted in quite specific ways. Focussing on our four key areas here is a snapshot of some responses so far:
Accompanying – We continue to accompany those peacemakers who remain in a position to respond either because they are well networked relationally or they continue to diligently serve displaced people in informal camps in northern France despite lockdown and criminalisation from police. We are listening to their needs and responding accordingly. Our Refugee Support Workers are supporting many through the Hopetowns community even though the weekly Hopetowns group cannot meet. One family were moved suddenly from their accommodation centre to a hotel because one of the parents tested positive for COVID-19. That parent was put in one room and the other parent, already suffering from PTSD, was put in a separate room with their children with no support, no phone charger and little understanding of what was happening or for how long. Peaceful Borders volunteers were able to offer support and get a charger delivered.
Building – We are trying to build capacity to respond in particular by helping people circulate accurate information about the virus and people’s rights during lockdown. For example people without papers can freely obtain medical assistance during this time, Home Office appointments have all been postponed, and people should not be evicted from accommodation during this time. We have tried to build capacity for practical help by giving financial assistance to those who can assist others, especially for food because prices have doubled in some parts of London and those on £35 per week are really struggling. One Refugee Support Worker with a car was able to do a large shop and deliver food parcels to individuals in lockdown in north London. In addition, helping isolated people improve digital connectivity has been important and we have been able to supply a Syrian family who arrived through VPRS just days before lockdown with a Tablet, clothes and toys.
Campaigning – We continue to support Safe Passage campaigns and a big concern presently is for clients who have been approved to join family being prevented from arriving due to closed borders or bureaucracy. We are supporting wider calls for unaccompanied children in refugee camps in Greece and elsewhere to be moved to safety and are pleased some EU countries have started to receive the first of 1600 children out of the 5200 children stranded in Greece.
Developing – Peaceful Borders has always been about finding peace in the spaces in between. We have always known that displaced people are experts in adapting to new circumstances, finding ways to navigate a life on hold and discover a new normal. We are working on a project to collect conversations and stories around the similarities that we increasingly share together now. We have restriction of movement and require papers to travel; borders are closed except to the virus; we miss activities that keep us healthy, happy and fulfilled; we are disconnected from family and friends and feel isolated; we grieve from a distance; our education has been put on hold; we are insecure financially; we are anxious and feel our mental health suffering. Together we can learn how to cope in such times.
If you would like to help financially in this time you can donate via our website.