We can’t let this go on: Aylan Kurdi

Petition the UK government to accept more refugeesA few days ago when I signed this petition the number of signatures was at less than 10,000 – as you see, the signatories have blasted past 120,000, and if David Cameron upholds his own policy on petitions (as he failed to do in the past over the NHS) Parliament now needs to consider this for a debate.

Aylan Kurdi is the small child who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and whose photograph, dead, is on so many newspaper front pages today. Aylan was three: Galip, his five-year-old brother, and Rihan, his mother, also drowned. The only survivor was his father, Abdullah.

I hope Abdullah’s permission was obtained by each of the newspapers who chose to highlight the refugee crisis with the body of his dead child. I cannot imagine, I cannot begin to conceive, the hell of suffering and loss Abdullah Kurdi is in, to lose your children and your partner in a desperate effort to escape with them to a safe refuge.

Aylan and Galip Kurdi After I posted my blog about Rukhsan Muhammed and the refugee crisis, someone linked me to this response to pictures of dead children – Aylan Kurdi was even then beginning to appear on Facebook – 5 reasons you shouldn’t share photos of dead kids on Facebook. I agreed with much of what Bernard O’Leary had to say, and for this reason, I am not including any version of the photos of Aylan Kurdi dead. In this photograph, Aylan is on the left in yellow; his older brother Galip is on the right.

Rukhsan Muhammed - Getty ImagesI also want to acknowledge a couple of mistakes I made when I tweeted and posted the picture of Rukhsan Muhammed. First, that I never noticed that in the version of the picture I saw on Facebook and tweeted, someone had photoshopped in a veil over her hair. I don’t know why they did this. Once I realised, it was hard to believe I hadn’t noticed, especially as I had found and looked at the original photograph in which Rukhsan Muhammed, struggling in the water, has dark uncovered hair. Second, something I only realised after thinking about the picture: I had tweeted that she was struggling to hold her baby’s head above water. This fitted with the original description of the photograph that I’d read. But in Rukhsan Muhammed’s own words, she was trying to keep her 18-month-old child Mirwan on the suitcase she is holding, as a kind of life-preserver: but he fell off and was lost amongst the waves. The picture, I realised then, isn’t of a mother struggling to keep her child alive: but of a bereaved mother who has just lost her child. I wanted to acknowledge my mistake, and to apologise to Rukhsan Muhammed here for my error.

Yesterday, David Cameron made what was possibly the most ill-timed and ill-judged speech of his career:

“We have taken a number of genuine asylum seekers from Syrian refugee camps and we keep that under review, but we think the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world.

“I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees.”

The UK has taken in a few hundred Syrian refugees, and a few thousand more have managed to get through what Amnesty International calls the “survival test” and reached the UK to claim asylum. Not all are from Syria: many of the refugees crossing the Mediterranean are also from Eritrea.

This morning, only one political leader leant David Cameron his support: Nigel Farage. Even Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, had tweeted:

Even the Daily Mail didn’t agree with David Cameron this morning, though last week it was in full flood against “migrants”.

This is not, of course, a test of character for David Cameron: it is an international crisis to which grassroots response in the EU has uniformly been far more generous than governments.

The Independent this morning has published a number of practical links on helping refugees.

Aid from individuals won’t resolve this crisis. Trying to stop a war is laudable if a little confusing coming from David “Let’s bomb Syria” Cameron, but won’t help the refugees and asylum seekers right now.

We need to do more to help the refugees struggling to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

We need to do more to help refugees struggling to stay alive on dry land.

We need to welcome far more asylum seekers, and not by the survival test route: we need to help them get here safely before they ever feel they have to get aboard an inadequate boat and make that dangerous crossing.

Please write to your MP to tell them so.

Jeremy Corbyn, who may be leader of the Opposition when that debate on refugees takes place, said yesterday in response to David Cameron:

“Nobody could fail to be moved by this harrowing and heartbreaking image,” he said.

“It should remind us of the situation facing millions of people desperately fleeing a terrible civil war.

“The government’s response to the refugee crisis has been wholly inadequate, and we are being shamed by our European neighbours. It is our duty under UN law, but also as human beings, to offer a place of safety, and play a role internationally to share our responsibilities, and to try to end the conflict.”

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Filed under Children, Human Rights, In The Media

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