Refugee crisis: Derry praised for generosity

Syrian migrants arrive at the coast on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey, at the island of Lesbos, Greece this month. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Syrian migrants arrive at the coast on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey, at the island of Lesbos, Greece this month. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Local people have been praised for their generosity and swift response to emergency appeals in relation to the current refugee crisis.

The Derry Branch of Irish charity Trocaire and the Mayor of Derry & Strabane Elisha McCallion have spoken of the generosity they have been met with over recent weeks.

The Mayor teamed up with Trocaire last month to co-ordinate the regional response to the unfolding crisis as everyone from schools and church groups to community groups and individuals organised fundraising events and collections.

Mayor McCallion said the campaign was proving a great success. She said: “I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed so far – even the smallest contribution will help in some way to alleviate the suffering of the innocent families forced to flee their homes and risk their lives in the hope of finding safety and comfort elsewhere.”

Roisin O’Hara, Trocaire’s North West Regional Officer, said: “There is definitely a real appetite among people here to do something to help.

“Trocaire has been working with the refugees from Syria since 2011, in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey since the conflict began and, in terms of the crisis on European shores, we have been providing support to our sister agencies in Greece and Serbia for immediate relief. They are providing things like hygiene kits, rain coats, basic first aid type stuff, water, food, tents, as well as trauma counselling.”

Ms O’Hara revealed that one of the stories fed back from partner organisations included that of a father who swam alongside a rubber dinghy from Turkey to Greece with a child on his back because there was no room left in the dinghy itself.

“Nobody leaves through choice,” she said, “the situation they are fleeing is absolutely desperate.

“The response from Derry has been very, very compassionate. People from Derry have an understanding that these people are not leaving through choice; they understand the sheer desperation.”