The Sunday Times Column: nobody wants to see the refugees suffer – but are trendy charities making it better?


It was days after I’d cried over a photograph of Aylan Kurdi’s tiny body, washed up lifeless on a Turkish beach, that I got an invitation to the “Conflict Café”: a charity effort that ticked every hipster trope. A pop-up restaurant promising “an immersive dining experience” that introduces “diners to food from conflict zones”, held under a railway arch. Before I’d taken a bite, the idea had stuck in my throat.

Something felt wrong about tucking into a “Middle Eastern brunch” as a toddler’s body was being buried by his family. Even the promise that profits from the event would go to International Alert — which I’m sure does great work supporting “local efforts to address the causes of conflict” — felt too vague, as stories of refugees holding children as they slept on railway tracks emerged.

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