Overwhelmed and unprepared, European governments are reluctant to carry the burden of the mounting refugee crisis
In, what can only be described as the middle of nowhere, there is not a shred of light. But where the eyes fail the ears make up for with the sounds of screaming, sobbing and retching. The cries are in a multitude of languages; Sudanese, Palestinian, Somali, Syrian, they all cry out for a safer life in Europe. With body on top of body, limb digging into limb, moving to relieve the pain is not an option – it could cause the boat to tip. Exercising their basic human rights at this point could result in death. It costs $2,000 to be thrown from boat to boat like bags and herded like cattle, identified as ‘migrants’ and not treated as what they are – human beings.
In Calais, the situation is better but still in need of improvement. Thousands huddle in poorly built square frames covered in thin grey plastic, they have created makeshift neighbourhoods being dubbed the ‘Jungle’. Food is in the form of canned goods delivered from local aid groups and is eaten with homemade utensils or whatever they can get their hands on. These people are on a journey that has already killed so many, risking their lives in an attempt to save them. Surely, there is more that developed nations can be doing to help.
Thankfully there are some willing to help. Ten thousand Icelanders have offered to take in Syrian refugees after a Facebook campaign by a prominent author was launched having watched the news that their government would only take in a handful. Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir encouraged Icelandic citizens to join the campaign to help those in need of asylum after the government announced it would only accept 50 humanitarian refugees. In just one day, 10,000 out of a possible 300,000 Icelanders offered up their homes while encouraging their government to step up. ‘I’m a single mother with a 6-year-old son … We can take a child in need. I’m a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket’, wrote Hekla Stefansdottir in a post. Because of this, the Icelandic Government is now looking at increasing its refugee quota.
Many of the refugees are also attempting to reach Germany and Sweden with Angela Merkel being called ‘Mother of the Outcasts’ by Syrians. Germany has shown great sympathy since the beginning of the Syrian civil war and has offered the country’s refugees better asylum conditions than most EU countries. The country has received over 300,000 applications for asylum. Despite facing a great deal of backlash from her own people, Merkel has a great deal of support from the Syrian people. Monzer, a Syrian who arrived in Germany this week, told the Guardian ‘Merkel is a respectable woman with humane values and very considerate. She is a mother to Syrians’. Hashem Alsouki, a Syrian applying for asylum in Sweden, said ‘We consider Merkel better than any other world ruler. She’s the saviour of Syria’s children from the hell of war and extremism. All Syrians love Merkel and her courage’.
However, many other Syrian refugees are not facing such an optimistic future. Recently, the world was stunned by an image of the body of a young boy washed up on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey. He had drowned whilst trying to escape his war-stricken home with his family. Reports later identified the boy as Aylan Kurdi who died alongside his 5-year-old brother whilst fleeing from the town of Kobani in Syria which has seen heavy fighting between IS militants and Kurdish forces. The hashtag #KiyayaVuranInsanlik or ‘humanity washed ashore’ was the top trending topic on Twitter after the image was spread online.
We see images like this far too often, some of us share them while some of us chose to look away. But these images cannot be ignored, it is easy to pretend the tragedies aren’t happening because they aren’t happening here, but that doesn’t solve anything. You hear people saying to ‘put yourself in their situation’ but that sort of empathy is almost impossible because there is no way for us to relate to what these people are going through. Images like this show the historic failure of humanity and civilisation when it comes to helping refugees.
Europe is an amazingly rich power that is allowing innocent children to wash up dead on its shores. This image will hopefully be the catalyst for change. It will hopefully make our governments and leaders realise their true values. Hopefully, they will prevent any more children like Aylan and his brother from dying while in search of a better life. Because after all, hope is all these people have.