The Refugee Crisis is not over, and the plight of the refugees is as difficult as ever. The situation at the Jungle refugee camp in Calais, France is complicated and tragic. More than half of the camp has been dismantled and demolished by French authorities. The south section has been completely closed, with authorities making plans to demolish the north side as well. The remaining 4,500 asylum seekers in the camp are being forced to either register for asylum in France, or leave the camp and find a new place to stay until the crossing to England can be accomplished. In Dunkirk, officials have taken significant action to correct inhumane living conditions for families. Heated shelters have been provided with regular meals, and officials are overseeing operations. The camp is still closed to outside humanitarian organizations, but we are believing for a breakthrough! Flashlights have been added to our latest assistance packages to both camps in Calais and Dunkirk. The flashlights are hand-cranked and do not require batteries, as batteries have been expensive for the families already living on what they were able to bring with them in the boat. A team last week distributed 500 care packages with flashlights in the Jungle alone. In Macedonia, Convoy of Hope Europe is working with Assembly of God missionaries and the National Church of Macedonia to support a feeding program for asylum seekers in the refugee camp along the northern border near Bosnia. Milk for babies and blankets are currently also being distributed in the camp. A new project is in the works for another feeding program in an additional camp. Convoy of Hope Europe is also continuing feeding programs in Jordan and Bulgaria for Syrian refugees. In Bulgaria, the Convoy of Hope Oasis Center continues to be a center for activity and food distribution for the people in the camp. In an effort to expand work with asylum seekers, the COHEU Response team will be headed to Greece next week for a mass distribution and scouting trip. Other avenues are also being pursued in Italy and Turkey!
Convoy of Hope Europe’s feeding programs in Jordan continue in the cities Irbid and East Amman for the third year. Over 600,000 Syrians are currently living in refugee camps in Jordan, unable to work or leave the camp. The Jordanian government does not want refugees to work in fear they will take jobs from Jordanians. If the refugees leave the camp, they will be ineligible for any official aid. Tensions can run high, as many have been stuck in this desperate situation for years. Crime is common, and many families are faced with the difficult decision of keeping their family in an unsafe environment, or leaving the camp to find alternate housing in the city and losing their access to food. Convoy of Hope Europe is working with partners in Jordan to help 1,300 refugees who made the decision to leave. One of these families is led by a woman named Haya. Her home in Syria was hit with a bomb and demolished, so Haya and her mother and siblings fled to Jordan. While the refugee camp in Irbid provided some food and assistance, there were problems with some of the men in the camp that made Haya fear for the safety of her sisters. They left the camp and are now renting a small room in Irbid. Struggling with depression and shock from the war and losing their home, unable to work, unable to stay in the refugee camp that was supposed to represent safety for her family, Haya withdrew from the world and rarely left the apartment or spoke with anyone. She did not know how to provide for her family until the food parcels started arriving from COHEU. Now, Haya has a new hope that her family will survive this difficult time, and her once-absent smile is now incredibly bright!
Michael was a professor of mathematics at a university in Ethiopia until he was thrown in prison for two months due to his involvement in a political protest in Addis Ababa. Prisoners were only allowed to go to the toilet once per day, and the guards put laxatives in their food to cause intestinal problems and torture them. Michael soon stopped eating the prison food entirely, and only ate what his family members could sneak in when they visited. When he was released, Michael knew he would never be allowed to work in Ethiopia again, so he left his country and headed north. Since he speaks English fluently, he hoped to reach England. Even considering the conditions he left, he was shocked by the rough living in the camp in Calais. After a failed attempt to get through the Channel Tunnel which left him limping heavily, he met some COHEU representatives based in the camp. The couple brought Michael to their home in Calais and that night prayed together for his leg, which felt immediately better. Back in the camp, he was assaulted and wounded by someone using a tent pole as a weapon. The couple brought him back to their home and cared for him for a few weeks. They spoke together about how the teachings of Jesus compel them to show love and care for those in need. Michael decided to become a follower of Jesus too. Eventually Michael made it to England, and still keeps in regular contact with our team in Calais.
Christians are not the only group of people persecuted for their faith in the Middle East. Kurds have been a persecuted minority in Syria, Iraq, and Iran for centuries, and those who follow the Yezidi faith are considered devil worshippers by ISIS. Banding together at the outset of the civil war, Kurdish forces represent an independent faction fighting to retain control of a section of captured land they now call Kurdistan. Soran and Rona and their children are Yezidi Kurds staying at a refugee camp in Bulgaria. They fled Syria when a bomb destroyed their house, and are on their way to Germany. Since arriving at the camp, they have become very familiar with the Convoy of Hope Oasis Center, and come regularly for meals and other assistance. Since the Bulgarian government only offers refugees poor quality housing for three months, Soran wants to bring his family to Germany where they would be offered a two year stipend and an apartment for the family. Soran and Rona do not plan to stay in Germany indefinitely. Instead they hope to use their time to find work and save up money. They are already looking for the day the war will be over and they can return to Syria/Kurdistan and begin life anew.