You forget how big a country Poland is- until you drive across it! Krakow was a 3 hour drive and we got their mid morning to see how the cities were “absorbing” the refugees.
In Krakow, the municipality was clearly coordinating efforts and the shopping centre was doubling up as a hub.
Charites were there offering food and more clothes – but there is only so much people can carry. An office arranging “temporary accommodation” was operating but it was busy and people slept on the floor waiting.
The support from the Polish people has been incredible. It wasn’t appropriate to interrupt this work to understand their matching/safeguarding approach but posters in the station and chats showed that people are very alive to the dangers of traffickers.
This is an unusual migration as there are no camps, at least not yet. It’s a logistics and transport operation where refugees arrive and are moved on to destinations of their choice. It’s a constant flow. There is a feeling amongst many that this is short term and that they will be going back soon. I hope that’s true, but fear it’s not.
The logistics operation is improving but it changes all the time. There is no apparent strategy and in that vacuum small NGOs are filling the void building networks and giving amazing compassion and support.
As for the big guys .. DEC, UNHCR etc nowhere to be seen. Whether that’s down to the lack of strategic leadership or the lack of camps and those traditional activities I’m not clear.
That’s not to say they should be there, but you are certainly getting more bang for your buck with charities such as EDA and Siobhans Trust.
The needs is of course cash. Cash to sustain operations, and cash to assist with what comes next. What’s not needed is clothes, piles of which lie in car parks for people to rummage through. Food is easily and cheaply bought.
Another commodity that is in short supply is volunteers. The Siobhans Trust guys are working 24/7- many refugees come through at night- while many other NGOs go back to their hotels. It is tiring work, dozens of pizzas need rolled, topped and cooked, industrial quantities of vegetables peeled and chopped, soup made, porridge stirrred and of course all served. And repeat.
They need volunteers who are prepared to pay and make their own way there, live in a tent for a week, sleep for a few hours at a time and work shifts. This is the Edinburgh Direct Aid model we used in the Balkans.
In my time away I’ve made many really useful contacts with whom we can partner, I have logistical and office support if needed, media contacts and ideas…Plenty to talk about at our next Management Committee Meeting next week.
My last appeal form Poland
On our way home we shared a flight with Oskana Slokvenko and her 10 year old daughter Sofia. They had spent 2 weeks trying to get to Scotland, leaving Sofia’s dad Oleg to fight. It was an emotional reunion that completed the journey for us. Having followed refugees from a freezing night in Ukraine, through the border, to the cities and then onto safety in Scotland. Who’d have though the hardest, longest part of that journey was getting a Visa to enter this country?
Since writing, I have been in touch with both Scottish Government Ministers and contacts on the ground to see how we in Scotland can better support refugees coming in. Our powers may be limited, but our determination isn’t.