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Paul O'Grady moved by plight of migrants during Salvation Army mission to Athens

Published 14/04/2016

Paul O'Grady has visited refugees in Athens
Paul O'Grady has visited refugees in Athens

Entertainer Paul O'Grady has urged people to show compassion to war refugees as he got a first-hand look at the trauma faced by thousands fleeing conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan.

O'Grady spoke after had travelled with the Salvation Army to the makeshift base of homeless refugees in Athens where he saw a two-month-old baby sleeping on a park bench in hot conditions and families traumatised by witnessing the killing of relatives.

O'Grady, appearing on BBC One's Sally Army And Me, says: "They're having a terrible time and they're going through a shocking ordeal. I don't know where they are all going to go but they've got to go somewhere, so we've got to show compassion. We have got to stop all this nonsense about 'migrants, migrants' as if they're a cockroach, a rat invasion.

"They're not; they're human beings. They had lives. They don't want to be here. War has forced them out."

He hands out food and sandwiches and bags of toys that have been sent from the UK during the Salvation Army-arranged trip to Victoria Square.

He also has a tense stand-off with a local woman who shouts that she wants the refugees out of Athens.

O'Grady said: "This is heartbreaking, because these have obviously been packed by children with the help of their parents, and there's little notes inside saying 'good luck', 'take care' and 'we are thinking of you'. And it's pitiful. There's little socks and there's pencils and mugs just things that we take for granted, or our children take for granted. I don't feel like Father Christmas."

Salvation Army Captain Jo Moir said it is hard not to remain distant about the situation, adding: "I think I put myself in their shoes a little bit you know. What if there'd been a tragedy in the United Kingdom and we all had to leave. Where would we go? Would people take us in?

"Would we have people screaming at us in a square saying go home? Would our children have no food to eat? For once the chatterbox has no words."

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From Belfast Telegraph