Shame of East Tyrone’s undelivered refugee aid

The aid is currently stored in a warehouse
The aid is currently stored in a warehouse

Five lorry loads of vital refugee aid collected from the people of East Tyrone and further afield is languishing in warehouses because of bureaucratic red tape.

Since May 2014, donated items including clothing, shelter, and toys have flooded in from local people to the Gaza Toy and Clothes Drive.

John Hurson with some of the aid destined for Calais

John Hurson with some of the aid destined for Calais

Coalisland lorry-driver and human rights campaigner John Hurson, who has been involved in the charity mission, has blamed the intransigence of governments for the repeated delays.

“We have repeatedly brought containers of aid to the docks in Dublin but couldn’t transport them because we were unable to get the necessary permissions”, he said.

“We have been forced to warehouse the aid in different locations for the past year. Currently it is being stored near Wexford.”

John has already led three aid convoys, travelling in lorries across dangerous terrain to reach the beleaguered people of Palestine. During one mercy mission he narrowly missed being bombed. Now he says he is being denied entry back to the Middle East.

“The project has been enormous to run, especially given that it is not an organization and is managed by a few individuals in their time outside of work and family commitments”, he said.

“Despite all efforts, every single day over the past 16 months, permission for this to travel to Gaza has been repeatedly denied. There have been obstacles, which we continuously overcame, only to find more in our way. The entire project has mirrored the daily life that the people of Palestine face.

“This is just one example of how difficult it is to live for the people of Palestine in that items of daily childhood life to which they are entitled are denied to them.”

Frustrated by the delays, John has decided to take matters into his own hands and is personally delivering a van-load of aid to the refugees stuck at Calais.

He is not asking for donations and is funding the trip himself.

“It’s no big deal, it’s the least I can do. I can’t sit and do nothing as thousands of people are fleeing the most horrendous situations. Calais is just a day’s drive away. I watch my own nephews and nieces running around kicking a football and playing with their toys, having a normal childhood, and then I look at what the refugee children are going through.”

On Tuesday, John and his cousin Adrian Murphy set off to Dunkirk with the aid, which included blankets, quilts, baby care items and medical supplies.

“There is also a forty foot truck being put into storage which will then head to Greece or Turkey and again it will be support from the people of Gaza to their friends”, he added.

John also has a plan to distribute the remaining goods, which is enough to fill four forty foot trucks.

“It will benefit the children of Gaza, but not in the way we had planned. All of the people that worked on the Gaza Toy Drive are dedicated supporters of equal human rights for all.

“However we commenced this for the people of Gaza and with everything within ourselves that we have left we will ensure that there is a benefit to the families and children of Gaza that have suffered far, far too long.”