East Tyrone man drives aid van in refugee mercy mission: ‘I can’t sit by and do nothing’

Refugee crisis in Syria
Refugee crisis in Syria

A mercy mission to Calais taking much needed supplies to desperate refugees is being organised by local human rights activist John Hurson.

Along with his cousin, Adrian Murphy, the Coalisland man plans to drive to the French port in a large van with warm blankets and shelter to hand over to the asylum seekers.

The 46 year-old has had more experience than most of what life is like in a refugee camp.

On three previous aid missions to Gaza, John has narrowly avoided bombs and endured intimidation to help those facing starvation and deprivation.

“I can’t sit and do nothing as thousands of people fleeing wars are just a day’s drive away in Calais”, he said.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and involves hundreds of thousands of people who have been trapped in refugee camps in Syria.

“Tragically, some of these people are Palestinians who had been refugees in Syria fleeing trouble in Gaza, so this is the third time they have been displaced.

“We are filling a large van with warm blankets and shelter and plan to go there on Tuesday or Wednesday. We intend to make this a fact-finding mission to see what these people really need on the ground to help with further missions.”

John added that he had visited Syria and witnessed at first hand the appalling conditions endured by vulnerable families and elderly people.

“These people have lost everything, their homes, their livelihoods, their communities. It is time we in the West told our politicians that this mess must be sorted out once and for all.”

Thousands of migrants, many from war zones and hot spots like Syria and Afghanistan, have gathered in Calais to try and get to the UK through the Channel Tunnel.

They live in makeshift camps called ‘The Jungle’.

Amnesty International warned this week that severe shortages of facilities and humanitarian staff are creating dreadful conditions for the thousands of people now camped there.

John’s facebook posts about the crisis have already inspired hundreds of other to donate aid to the refugees.

“What we are seeing just now is just horrendous,” he said. “We need to stop talking about refugees and migrants and start thinking about people. That’s the message that we have to get across.

“In the past year, 2,500 people have perished trying to flee conflict, and this is the first time they have been humanised. What we are seeing now is the power of social media to energise people into acting on this colossal human tragedy. It is time we all stood up and demanded action from our politicians.”