The unbearable lightness of being - how many Aylans before action?

By David Looby

Published 08/09/2015 | 00:00

Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian child who was recovered from the sea in Kos.
Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian child who was recovered from the sea in Kos.

IT was an image that shocked the world.

A boy, aged three, lying face down in the water. His bright red T-shirt, his short pants. The patterned plastic soles of his shoes. For all the world he looked like he was sleeping. But his sleep, like that of his five-year-old brother, Galip's, was eternal.

He, along with his father and mother and 19 other migrants, had set out in desperation on a boat, in blind hope for a better life in Europe.

The boat capzied and 12 people drowned. This was one week after 71 migrants were found dead outside Vienna and two weeks after an image of a Syrian father clinging onto his children having survived the trip to Europe, shocked the world. Now we have the latest 'iconic' image for the world to grapple with. For the aggressively nationalistic among us, those who turn a blind eye to these images, the mantra remains the same. 'Keep them out!' Across Europe nationalistic parties have been gaining in popularity. Sadly, listening to the reaction, both here in Ireland and in the UK, it seems this 'let them die' sentiment is rampant here also.

The situation in Hungary last week, where people were literally lying down on train tracks with their children to protest at how they were being treated, highlights the massive human aspect of this multifaceted world crisis.

The situation in Calais - with migrants trying to sneak onto trucks - was only the tip of a giant iceberg moving our way.

160,000 migrants have arrived into Greece so far this year, mainly from Syria, where atrocity has become a daily reality for people living under a de facto dictatorship. It's not too long ago when the Jewish people had to flee a tyrant in the deranged form of Hitler and they also faced hostility, receiving no welcome in the land of the Céad Míle Fáilte.

This past week, we have witnessed our government perform a trademark u-turn, by agreeing to allow several thousand refugees into the country, still a paltry number considering that Germany plans to take over 800,000. Iceland is also to the fore.

The term 'fair distribution' has been bandied about, as if taking in migrants was an overly onerous task. Naturally the situation is a minefield considering the fact that checks will have to be carried out about the migrant's backgrounds. But this can be done. Germany has led the way, with moving footage of one German village warmly welcoming migrants, striking a chord of humanity. Bayern Munich has offered refugee training camps where food, German lessons and football equipment for childen will be provided and the club donated €1m to help refugees. Meanwhile Angela Merkel has been to the forefront of calls for a united European response.

The time for closing our eyes is over. Everywhere, people are coming up with ways to house and feed these people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves cast out into the world, strangers in strange lands, not unlike us Irish in America and Australia during The Famine. Xenophobia is another word for fear. And fear is only going to make everything worse.

Human Rights Convention Article 1 states: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Article 3 states: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Adopted in 1948, the tenets of this post World War treaty need to be remembered as Europe faces its greatest challenge since.

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