One year ago the image of baby Alan Kurdi washing ashore gripped the world. The desperate quest of his Syrian family for freedom and safety ended up in this tired, overtaken rag doll image becoming a reflection of the plight of the Syrian refugees. A little angel forced our attention.
One year on. And where are we now? Has his life been honoured by lives protected? Lives saved?
Has the call to the global community for compassion and accommodation been heard? Has the message been able to make its way through the year?
Painfully, it appears not.
Immediate response to the image of lifeless little Alan on the shores of one of Turkey’s tourism beaches was citizen outrage and political action. As hearts opened across the globe, and hashtags acted as a voice imploring a humanitarian response, policies were put in place to open doors. European leaders, some but not all, showed an ethical leadership and unity unseen for quite some time. Their show of courage and conviction within political leadership was needed, immediately, not later, as day after day thousands of desperate, journey defying refugees arrives on the shores of the continent. Tiny children. Tired parents. Too many to count. Too many tears to see through.
Hearing of the struggles for life, hundreds of millions worldwide watched as flimsy, water-defying boats arrived in Europe, and the journey of the refugees continues. The long walk to freedom. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometers were taken on without hesitation by the refugees remarkably on terra firma. Germany, Austria, the UK, France…anywhere, actually. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers. Thousands of kilometers away from Turkish shores, refugees began their trek to their so dearly hoped for final places to rest their tired hearts, souls and soles.
The world was finally watching. And yet the reality is that long before baby Alan washed up on the shores of Turkey, refugees had been fleeing from Syria to places promising simply safety. Millions. Millions the world chose not to see as it was not on their shores.
And then reality bit, hard. As waves of refugees arrived into Europe, doors began to close, along with hearts. Policies were changed, promises fell, compassion faded. And # activism moved on to the next issue, the next crisis, the next popular outrage.
Still, while the world looks away, the global refugee community continues to fight for freedom, dignity and safety. The numbers of refugees making the terrifying journey since little Alan’s death has reached almost one million, with close to 6000 lives lost – those that we know of. This past week, in a period of just 30 hours, an estimated 6,500 refugees made the terrifying crossing of the Mediterranean, including a pair of five day old twins born on the waters thankfully finding themselves on the dry shores of Europe, and in the headlines of global news. The survival of these two little souls has been called a ‘miracle’, the story squeezing the hearts of the world. Likewise the image of little Omran, the young boy pulled out of the rubble of an airstrike on his neighbourhood in Aleppo. His family chose to stay. He survived. His brother, however, did not.
Children, fragile children, have become what it takes to get the world’s attention, to care.
But does the world care enough to not look away?
The care, compassion and action of the world can be so much more. We who can make a difference must stop looking to the lives of refugees for stories of miracles – we must create the miracles that their life stories so desperately, courageously seek.
The policies of governments across the world accepting, or rejecting, refugees are a direct reflection of the wishes of their citizens. It is the opening, and closing, of hearts and homes on safer ground that is determining the fate of the refugees – courageous souls simply seeking to find a way of looking towards tomorrow with confidence that they will see the sunrise. Are changes needed to systems and structures to take in refugees and make them productive, appreciated members of society? Absolutely, this we know to be true. As is needed ways of identifying those taking advantage of the suffering of others to drive their own agendas, gaining access to be able to do damage to societies simply trying to do good.
As opportunities and issues across our world continue to bring people together, the refugee crisis has rightly been called ‘the moral test of our generation‘. To fail this test would be profoundly shameful.
Today, right now, here’s how you can help: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/28/world/iyw-migrant-how-to-help/index.html
And please, please, do not look away…..x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016