Calais debate: How am I to tow my caravan to Syria?

Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001
Helen Burton SUS-150709-171138001

I was asked a couple of questions about why I donated the caravan and what it was going to be used for, but the main discussion was whether or not it was right to help the refugees in Calais. How has helping people become so controversial? There was a soundbite from UKIP MEP Mike Hookham (which was repeated frequently all morning during the show and on the news) saying that whilst he applauded the sentiment of sending over aid for ‘these people’, I was misguided, and that the aid should be going directly to people in Syria. (I’m not sure how I am supposed to send my caravan to Syria)? Whilst I agree Syria needs our aid, that view ignores the situation in Calais, and whatever you think about their reasons for being there the Calais refugees need our help. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to answer the last point, which was why didn’t I give my caravan to the English homeless? The answer is that a caravan used to house the homeless here would be towed and destroyed. If you need evidence of that just look at the case of former soldier Paul Wright. He has been living in a caravan alongside the A259 for 18 months and has nowhere else to go as he has been deemed a ‘non priority’ for housing by the local councils. I saw his caravan on the news, it is a set-up that is not causing offence to anyone and is next to a roadside café who are happy to have him there.

Nonetheless, the council intend to destroy the caravan resulting in Paul and his two dogs having to sleep rough. He can’t move the caravan because vandals have damaged the wheels so the highways department intend to crush it. Those of you who have been following my column know that I have written about homelessness in the UK in the past and it is also a subject I care about. Luckily there are great organisations in Eastbourne that support the homeless, although lack of housing is still a big issue. We don’t have to decide between helping refugees and the British homeless. Anyone struggling in life deserves our help.