The photo of a dead Syrian child that needs to change our views on refugees

Published September 3rd, 2015 - 07:10 GMT
Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Ghalib drowned on Wednesday after their dinghy sank near Turkey. (Twitter)
Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Ghalib drowned on Wednesday after their dinghy sank near Turkey. (Twitter)

The pictures show a small boy lying face down in the sand on a Turkish beach as an official stands over him.

The child, who is thought to be Syrian, has drowned in an apparent attempt to flee the war ravaging his country.

They are extraordinary images and serve as a stark reminder that, as European leaders increasingly try to prevent refugees from settling in the continent, more and more refugees are dying in their desperation to flee persecution and reach safety. 

The boy, pictured below being carried by the official, is one of 12 Syrian refugees feared dead after they drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean on two boats bound for the Greek island of Kos.

One of the boats was carrying six Syrians when it sank after leaving Akyarlar, in a desperate attempt to cross the 5km Aegean straight to Kos that represented their best chance of entering the EU.

According to Turkey’s Dogan news agency, three children and a woman from the small boat drowned. Two people survived after swimming back to shore in life jackets.

In Britain, David Cameron and Philip Hammond have been criticised for the “dehumanising” language they use to describe refugees.

The Prime Minister described refugees coming to the UK as a “swarm”, and later said he would not “allow people to break into our country”.

Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said refugees were “marauding” around Calais. Amnesty International called his comments “shameful”.

The pictures, and the tragedy they convey, are hard to ignore, and now senior politicians are calling on Cameron to do more to tackle the crisis.

Labour leadership front-runner Jeremy Corbyn told The Independent: "Nobody could fail to be moved by this harrowing and heartbreaking image.

"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."

But while images of desperate refugees emerge almost every day, the attitude of Europe's policymakers and much of the public have continued to harden.

Hungary has continued to build its razor-wire fence blocking off the 170km length of its border with Serbia, and on Wednesday police in Budapest blocked refugees from boarding trains to Germany for a second day running.

In the Czech Republic, some 200 refugees with valid train tickets were hauled off a train bound for Germany and given registration numbers, in permanent marker, written on their arms.

In the Netherlands, the government has announced a toughening of its rules that would see failed asylum-seekers cut off from food and shelter within “a few weeks” of being handed a decision.

By Adam Withnall


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