I had an early dinner last night with some friends high in the hills behind Mersin. In our group were 3 little boys who ran around having fun and just being kids. They laughed, they played, they ate a hearty meal and then they left with their families to return to their warm, safe homes.
I too returned to my warm, safe home where I sat on my terrace and opened my social media. The one photo that was shared over and over again, the photo that filled my newsfeed was of a young boy, in a neat red shirt, blue pants and tiny, tiny shoes, no older than those that I shared my dinner with, lying dead on the beach in Bodrum. It seems that humanity has lost folks. This is it for all of us.
Just take a moment to look at the photo. Really look at it. This is the world we live in. This little boy has been identified as Aylan Kurdi and right now should be safe in the bosom of his family and not lying in a body bag waiting to be expatriated back to his homeland for burial.
Aylan along with his mother and his brother perished as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea between Bodrum (Türkiye) and Kos (Greece) in a small dingy. They have become a statistic, one of more than 2,600 people who have died trying to cross to Europe from Türkiye in 2015. This is the most deadly migrant crossing point in the world and this figure is only going to get higher. Those who do make it across to Greece then find themselves in another country that is unable to cope with the sheer volume arriving on its shores – let’s not forget that Greece is in the midst of an economic crisis. But they are still the lucky ones as they are in Europe now and their dream for a new, better life for them and their family is possible.
In Türkiye there are over 1.7 million Syrian refugees currently seeking asylum. When the fighting in Syria began Türkiye opened its borders with the expectation that the conflict would be short lived and the refugees would return to their homeland. Five years on and the conflict is ongoing, if not worse, and each day brings more waves of people fleeing for safety. The Turkish Government is working furiously to support the refugees but the huge cost is taking a toll on the country with resentment building between the Turkish people and the Syrian refugees. Turkish people are well known for their generosity but with so many Turkish families living below the poverty line there is building anger that any Government funding be directed towards helping their own people and not those who should not be living here in the first instance. Türkiye also has the constant struggle with maintaining its borders, ongoing issues with its neighbours, the very real threat of terrorism and the recent disruption to the cease fire with the PKK.
I have always been quite opinionated about refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. The Turk had to jump through some pretty big hoops before he got residency and I believed that anyone wishing to enter Australia should jump through those same hoops but since living in Mersin my eyes have been opened to the suffering of these people running for their lives. My selfish behaviour, and the behaviour of so many of us all over the world, is the reason that little Aylan Kurdi lost his life yesterday.
Did you know that in Australia boats filled with refugees can be towed back into international waters by the Australian coastguard? How about the fact that David Cameron has said that the UK cannot take in any more refugees? Is Aylan one of your “pests” David? Probably not eh? Did you hear that in Germany a planned asylum centre was burnt down? In Macedonia there has been fighting at the border crossings. In the Czech Republic police have been marking and numbering the refugees with washable ink (hello WW2) and, of course, in the Mediterranean the bodies of baby boys are being washed up on Turkish beaches.
Feck people. We are all living on this earth. Together. What is wrong with all of us? We failed this little boy and we failed his family. He is lost to the world now but perhaps with this sad photograph doing the rounds on social media the doors will be opened for others that are running for their lives. I know my opinion has changed. Perhaps yours will change too.
For those of you who want to help the Migrant Offshore Aid Station is dedicated to preventing migrant deaths at sea and Save the Children is distributing essential items such as nappies, hygiene kits and food. Give what you can.
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