Charities Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), SOS Méditerrannée and Women for Refugee Women each stand to receive "well over" £20,000 as the result of Philippe Sands' Baillie Gifford Prize donation.
Sands' donation of the £30,000 Baillie Gifford Prize pot, awarded in November for East West Street (W&N), prompted the sponsor to match the amount and further contributions from chair of the judges Stephanie Flanders, who donated her honorarium for judging, and from his publisher's parent company Hachette UK.
Sands, who is a human rights lawyer, announced during the awards ceremony that he and fellow shortlisted author and friend Hisham Matar had pledged that if either of them won, they would share the prize and donate it to refugee charities.
Among the chosen charities is Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters, victims of armed conflict and to refugees, irrespective of gender, race, religion, creed or political convictions. Since 2002 MSF has been providing assistance to those crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, providing first aid assistance, food and clothing at multiple points along the route.
Also among those selected is SOS Méditerrannée, a European organisation which operates the rescue ship Aquarius in the Central Mediterranean alongside medical partners MSF. Sands' donation will go towards funding SOS Méditerrannée’s rescue activities this winter in order to continue to save lives.
The final charity is Women for Refugee Women, which works with women who have crossed borders to seek safety from persecution. It empowers these women to tell their own stories and works towards a fairer asylum process in the UK. The donation will be used to support women who have recently arrived in the UK, enabling more women to access English classes and begin to rebuild their lives.
The charities remarked the donation had come at "a crucial time" in what has been a "challenging year" and praised Sands for "standing up for refugees in this current climate, which is often so hostile to those who are forced to leave their homes to seek safety".
James Kliffen, head of fundraising at MSF UK, said: "A donation of this magnitude from Phillippe Sands, Baillie Gifford, Hachette and Stephanie Flanders is truly remarkable. This support couldn't come at a more crucial time for MSF, as our staff around the world face unprecedented challenges. From the global refugee crisis, to ongoing emergencies in Syria, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria, a donation of this magnitude will undoubtedly save lives. On behalf of our patients, and everyone here at MSF UK, thank you for your support.”
Klaus Vogel, co-founder and president of SOS Méditerrannée, said: "2016 has been a challenging year as we have seen an increase in Mediterranean deaths and as a response an increase in the number of civilian rescue organizations. Over these winter months we will be the only civic rescue boat operating in the Mediterranean, and it is thanks to support and acknowledgment such as this that we are able to continue our work and hopefully raise awareness on the harsh realities at our borders.”
Natasha Walter, director of Women for Refugee Women, added: "We are immensely grateful to Philippe Sands and the others who have donated. Philippe has previously supported our work against the indefinite detention of women who seek asylum and we admire him for standing up for refugees in this current climate, which is often so hostile to those who are forced to leave their homes to seek safety. This gift will make a huge difference to our work."
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