Friday, September 4, 2015

Where is our humanity?

There’s only one topic on the lips of Europeans this week. Over the last few months we have seen a huge number of people attempting to cross into Europe, but in the past week the crisis seems to have been exemplified. By now we have all seen the truly tragic photo of 3 year Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi laying dead on a Turkish beach, who drowned alongside his 5 year old brother and mother when trying to reach the Greek Island of Kos. You can see the reactions from cartoonists pictured above and below that have perfectly captured the heartbreak and hopelessness of the situation. The photo has now become the catalyst for a huge outpouring of distress from the media, but what are our governments doing to stop this all from happening?

No one can deny the horror we all felt when seeing this photo, but unfortunately Aylan is just 1 of over 2,500 people that have lost their lives this year alone making the perilous crossing across the Mediterranean. We are currently living in a time where we are seeing the biggest wave of migration since World War 2, and no-one seems to have a clue how to handle it. 

Here in the UK, our Prime Minister refuses to increase the amount of refugees allowed to cross our borders. This attitude from a majority of politicians is so disheartening. It is so easy to make statements about a situation when you are so far removed from it, and can hardly imagine the lives of these people. Back in the 1940's, European countries took in a large number of Jewish refugees who were fleeing from Nazi occupation, so we are no strangers to migration. Europe needs to find its humanity again.

Lets say that you live in a normal town in England. What if you suddenly found yourself under siege from terrorists or war, members of your family were killed in front of you and you had no other choice but to flee. After weeks of travelling, you reach the channel tunnel and prepare to find sanctuary in France. But when you get to the border, you find that they are letting no-one through. How would you feel? Where would you go?
A lot of people suggest that the only reason people are travelling to Europe is to claim benefits and milk our welfare system. Just look at the photo of little Aylan. No parent is prepared to risk their child's life unless they really have nothing else to lose. They are in the water because it seemed safer to them than being on land.

David Cameroon has said that letting refugees stay in Europe is not the answer, and that we need to address the root causes of this crisis. Whilst this assessment is logical, this crisis is not going to be solved in the next few days, months or even years. What are we going to do about the thousands of people who are begging for our help right now? All we seem to be doing is putting up higher fences, closing our borders and just allowing people to die on our shores day after day. The big questions that the government are focusing on seems to be what countries are taking in the most people, how many are camped at Calais and how much is this going to cost us?

Whilst politicians stall and focus on numbers and statistics, the general public seems to have woken up to the tragedy in the past few days. When Iceland announced it would only be taking 50 refugees into the country, the Icelandic people responded with a social media campaign pleading with their government to be more caring. Families offered up their homes to orphaned children and thousands signed a petition to show the government that they could do more. Germany and Sweden are leading the way in showing compassion and providing aid in Europe, with Germany planning to open its borders to 800,000 people by the end of the year, and Sweden providing every Syrian refugee with automatic residency.

This attitude has now started to spread over the rest of Europe. In the UK, 146,000 people have signed a petition for David Cameroon to accept more refugees into Britain: a matter which will now have to be discussed in the House of Commons in the next few days due to the sheer number of people behind it. There have been pro-refugee rallies in Vienna and Berlin, attended by thousands of people. Unfortunately there have also been shocking scenes of violence at Hungarian train stations, and Slovakia have said they will not be accepting any non-Christian refugees into their country because 'they would not feel at home.'

The time has come for Europe to step up. David Cameroon today finally bowed to overwhelming public pressure and announced plans to increase the number of refugees allowed into Britain to 4,000 - but only from refugee camps in Syria. Although a positive step forward, this is still not helping the thousands of refugees already in Europe. This crisis has been happening for months now, yet it only took one photo for the media and governments to finally show a shred of compassion. What other tragedies have to happen before we take proper action? Just think about what you would do if the tables were turned and you needed to seek asylum somewhere safe. You would want to be welcomed with kindness, not rejected from fear. We are all citizens of this earth, and every life is precious.

Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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