Sam Smith

Sam brings you the latest stories, interviews and updates about British Red Cross work in Syria, Africa and the Americas.

Posts by Sam Smith:

Europe refugee crisis: So close to death, so close to safety


Grande-Synthe, Dunkirk, refugees

Authorities in France have started to demolish part of the refugee camp in Calais known as the ‘jungle’. Estimates as to the number of people who could be affected range from 800 to 3,455. With nowhere else to go, refugees could relocate to the camp at Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, where conditions are even worse than Calais. Bryar, a nurse from Iraq, is among the thousands of refugees already living in Grande-Synthe.

In the last 18 months, Bryar has stared at death on more than one occasion.

Certain death was the reason why he fled Iraq. He almost perished aboard a sinking inflatable boat in the Mediterranean. Upon reaching Europe, only scavenging for discarded food kept him from starvation.

And now the 27-year-old nurse is in the midst of a squalid camp in northern France with little protection from the winter.

Yet his story of tussles with death is not special or unique. It is the norm. Talk to anyone at the Grande-Synthe camp and they will all tell you similar tales.


Meet the ‘mother of the jungle’ at Dunkirk refugee camp


Roonak, pictured with her son Beshwar, centre

“The only thing that people have here is hope,” says Beshwar. “There’s no clean water. There are no showers, there aren’t enough toilets. What else do we have?”

The mud consumes everything in the dank squalor of the Grande-Synthe camp, near Dunkirk. Flimsy tents offer little protection from the rain and cold. Rats and diseases are rife. It is inhumane.

The camp is home to around 3,000 refugees, mostly Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. There are many families here, including around 300 children.

The inhabitants spend their days trying to keep warm and dry. They spend their nights trying to find an unguarded lorry bound for the UK.


Refugee crisis: cold and alone with nowhere to go


Grande-Synthe-Aram.2Aram is 16. His parents are dead. His younger brothers are in Iraq. He is alone in France.

For the last three months he has been living in the squalid Grande-Synthe camp, home to around 3,000 refugees and migrants, near Dunkirk.

He was brought here by people smugglers, hidden in the back of a car. He had no idea where he was, or where he was going.

“I don’t like it here, it’s a crazy place,” he says in a softly spoken voice.


Syria crisis: Escaping the snipers and bombs

Syrian refugees, Jordan


For someone who has been through so much, Maher is exceptionally calm and dignified.

His is a tale of desperation and sadness, but it is by no means unique.

I meet him in the small basement flat that he shares with his wife, Fatima, and father. The family sleep in a tiny room that floods regularly.

They don’t seem to mind; they are just grateful to be alive.


Syrian refugees start afresh in Turkey



Turkey hosts more refugees than any other nation in the world. Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, visited the country recently and saw how Syrians are trying to settle into a new way of life.

I met Rana* at a community centre in Istanbul. Along with a group of other women, she was taking part in a Turkish language course organised by our partner the Turkish Red Crescent.

Some of them had been in Turkey for several years, others just a few weeks. Rana used to be a dentist in Aleppo.

Her English was word perfect and we chatted about her journey out of Syria and some of the challenges she and her family now face.

She told me about the frustrations of not being able to work and the difficulty of learning a new language.

I asked her what her preference would be: stay in Turkey and start a new life, or go back to Syria? She smiled at me. “I still carry the key to my home in Aleppo,” came the reply.


Syria crisis: a grave would be better than this life

Syria crisis winter


Cold, lonely, hungry and surrounded by conflict. There is little to cheer for Mohamad.

All he has is hope. Hope that one day the guns in Syria will fall silent and that life will return to normal.

“What is this war? We cannot understand it,” he said.

The stories and photos that have emerged from Madaya in recent days have highlighted the plight of those left behind in Syria.

And while much of the focus has been on the besieged town near Damascus, the sad truth is that millions of people across Syria are in exactly the same position.


Bangladesh: how your donations will change lives


p-BGD0852Abdul Malek is one of 21 million people in Bangladesh who do not have access to clean water.

As the farmer explains in the video below, a lack of clean water and decent sanitation facilities, such as toilets, poses many problems for him and his family.

Thanks to everyone who donated to our Clean Start Appeal, we’ve begun work on a water and sanitation project to help people like Abdul.

Paul Davenport, who heads up our work in Bangladesh, explains what we hope to achieve.


Refugee crisis: people of the dump


Refugees FranceQusay has become accustomed to the noise and stench of living next to a landfill site.

Every day, large tipper trucks dump tonnes of household waste about 50 metres from his flimsy tent.

The smell infiltrates your every breath. This is not a place for human habitation.

Yet, just a stone’s throw away from the smouldering piles of waste, a ramshackle camp has become home for Qusay and around 250 people.

You do not have to think too hard to see the symbolism in their surroundings.

Like the rubbish in the dump, they appear to have been discarded by society.