Derry Mayor sets up emergency refugee crisis appeal

Supporters of the People before Profit at the Guildhall give their support to the refugees.

Supporters of the People before Profit at the Guildhall give their support to the refugees.

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The Mayor of Derry and Strabane Councillor Elisha McCallion has revealed that a new emergency appeal for refugees is being set up in Derry with Trocaire.

Mayor McCallion joined hundreds of people at a vigil in Derry on Thursday staged in solidarity with refugees fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa and she is also organising another vigil at Guildhall Square on Monday at 5pm so local people people can join with others across the world who are showing support for the families seeking refuge.

A young supporter offers his bed to the refugees.

A young supporter offers his bed to the refugees.

Thursday’s event was organised by People Before Profit and addressed by the Mayor, veteran rights advocate Eamonn McCann and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan among others.

Opening the event. Eamonn McCann referenced the recent horrific images of the bodies of children being washed ashore.

“It is shame in the eyes of the world that we have to look at and then talk about babies being drifted from the waves like dripping bundles of rags by rescuers on the shores of the Mediterranean. Bodies are left to bob about like flotsam and jetsam. This cries to heaven for change and for people and politicians to be made to take a more decent attitude to all human beings and particularly human beings who have to flee for their lives from oppression and war.”

Mayor McCallion told those gathered that what was happening to the refugees was “absolutely despicable” and had left her feeling “ashamed to be part of a race that allows that to happen”.

“I’m a mother of three children, and to be fair, every picture I see, I see my own child’s eyes in those pictures, as I am sure every mother, every father, every aunt, uncle and grandparent in this part of the world did too.”

To cheers from the crowd, Mayor McCallion agreed with Mr McCann that the doors of Derry were indeed open. “They can stay in my house, they can stay in your house,” she said.

Under the banner of national charity Trocaire, who are on the ground with aid helping refugees, the Mayor said she will be opening an emergency appeal and urged local people to dig deep.

“Let this be the start of something huge. Let’s show the people of the world what Derry can do when we come together.”

Mr Durkan said it was time to force those in power to take action, and vowed that local politicians would do all in their power to ensure the voice and will of the people was loud and clear at government headquarters.

Local woman Cathy Hale from Woodbrook said governments should be doing a lot more and not turning people away. “After that wee boy’s body was found in Turkey and his brother as well, they should be ashamed of themselves.”

Local businessman Mohammed Ali said that the refugees “are not coming here for fun, they are escaping death”.

Further details about the Mayor’s emergency aid appeal, in conjunction with Trocaire, will be released later this week. A static collection point for donations will be in place at the Guildhall and a number of other locations throughout the district, and volunteers will be needed for street collections and other fundraising initiatives.

Anyone interested in volunteering their time can contact mayor@derrystrabane.com