Mercy dash to Calais camp

Goods are packed and ready to be loaded
Goods are packed and ready to be loaded

Generous East Renfrewshire residents made the round trip to the Calais refugee camp at the weekend to drop off the largest single supply of donations from Scotland.

East Renfrewshire Convoy to Calais has been collecting supplies from residents, schools and businesses - and, as a result, 24 people travelling in eight vehicles set out for France last Thursday.

Convoy coordinator Laura Pritchard told The Extra: “The enthusiasm of local people has exceeded everyone’s expectations. This has been a real community effort and we are so proud to be able to take the goodwill and generosity of East Renfrewshire to the refugee community in Calais.”

The group spent the weekend distributing at Calais and a smaller camp at Dunkirk, meeting the people fleeing places like Syria and Ethiopia.

Laura explained: “The thing that strikes you is how banal the camp is. The images you tend to see are the crying child, but it’s much more mundane and ordinary.

“Everyone is incredibly respectful to each other, even though there are so many nationalities and religions.

“But at dusk, you can feel the atmosphere changing. Like anywhere else, if you have a problem it seems worse at night, and you start to feel desperation setting in.”

She added: “The camp is bigger than you’d imagine; like the links golf course at Troon but with 6,000 people on it. People are washing in puddles or in the sea.’

“The last items were handed out as the light faded, I started to get cold – then I looked down and saw the people in front of me had bare feet.

“Well-educated middle-aged men are shuffling through a queue for a jumper someone in Clarkston didn’t want ­‑ that’s not a good feeling, for them or for us.

“And yet they make jokes and stay upbeat - even though many of them want to go back to a home that isn’t there.”

The team plan to return to Calais - for more info visit www.facebook.com/East-Ren-Convoy-To-Calais.