Opinion: being a refugee is not fate, it’s fortune

Opinion: being a refugee is not fate, it’s fortune

by Lewis MacLean

The tragic story of an entire refugee family drowning in the British channel last month might’ve hit me harder, more than most. 

This is because I probably met them. 

Back in August I spent a few weeks volunteering for Care4Calais working with refugees and I recognise the faces. I recall a very happy go lucky family playing football on a sunny afternoon somewhere near their camping site in Dunkirk. My lasting memory is watching a family laughing and playing together at a picnic. A family that were probably camping in a field nearby for months on end. The joy and appreciation that a simply luxury like a football, or even time spent with caring people was abundantly clear, even after just one afternoon. Spending time with the people in Calais made more sense to me than a thousand news stories on TV. 

Scroll forward several months, I am back home in dreary pre-lockdown two England complaining and taking my privilege and freedom for granted once again. During that same amount of time an entire family has been wiped out due to bureaucracy and territorial technicalities. 

Christmas is coming up and times are hard for everyone, I know but it doesn’t cost a lot to try and make the world a slightly better place.

I know that the refugees are having their tents confiscated at an alarming rate. As we speak, charity volunteers are being increasingly discouraged and even simply handing out food is being criminalised in some areas. The French authorities are investing more effort in obstructing solutions than they are solving problems. Quite likely, they are under pressure from our own soulless government policy.

You may well have voted for Brexit and that is your business. But did you vote for people to starve? 

When you see a family laughing and playing together, things make sense. Now the unescapable truth is that an entire family are dead.  This is not fate, it is fortune. There is no merit in any argument otherwise.

I saw for myself, many teenagers, sleeping under tarpaulin sheets tied to industrial estate fences. That was back in the summer with 25C+ heat. Imagine how that feels now in the freezing cold rain. 

Tents be needed but I also noticed with my own eyes, how there was a shortage of coats back in the summer. Now, winter coats, preferably hooded would help keep the icy cold rain of their backs. There was a preference for simplistic dark coats from the guys in the camp, I think this was likely so they wouldn’t stand out and risk unwanted attention.

Care4Calais are doing a Coats4Calais campaign – £20 gets someone a coats for winter: https://care4calais.org/coats4calais/

You can even donate a winter coat you no longer use. There is a drop off point at the Millennium Third Age Centre in Bevois Valley, Southampton. Any old coats might still be as good as a donation. People are living under shelters made from tarpaulin sheets. This is happening. I have seen it myself. The picture below was taken at the same place and same time I volunteered.  

Picture courtesy of Fiora Garenzi fioragarenzi.com

 I mean, the cheapest Winter coats in Primark is something like £15! So enough donations can send as many of these over to Calais as possible. Ideally before the harsh weather kicks in properly. If I can’t get them over due to lockdown complexities then I will make sure the money gets to the right place.The link to my JustGiving page is below: 


YOUR donations WILL help and I will make sure to prove that to you.  

Let’s make living like this: A little bit easier.

However . . . for those that believe charity begins at home in times like these. No drama.  There are plenty of people who need help in our own community. So may I direct your attention to the link below. 

This will take you to the local Southampton Mutual aid group who are and have been taking care of our nearest and dearest in our local community, helping them make ends meet. 


Please only give what you can afford in all circumstances.

When you see a family laughing and playing together, things make sense.Now the unescapable truth is that an entire family are dead. 

The reason it wasn’t your family is because you were lucky enough to be born into a more fortunate time and place in history. This is not fate it is fortune. There is no merit in any argument that promotes the superiority of one human over another outside of pure chance. 

  • Main image courtesy of Care4Calais