Friday, September 02, 2016

Humanity remains washed ashore, for all too many more...

A year ago today: an emotive photo of one tragic child among so many, yet special in being the one to prompt a horrified world to act - or, at least, piously promise so.
Yet 12 gruelling months since three-year-old Alan Kurdi died, drowned - and those harrowing images emerged of the poor boy, face-forward on a Turkish beach - that same world stands accused of letting him down. And many thousands, potentially millions, more.
Gasping politicians' vows to better protect those fleeing Daesh and Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war have not been met with sufficient help in the region nor safe havens elsewhere, exasperated aid workers say.
And both Britain and Europe have been warned to expect a new surge in Syrian escapees choosing to risk their lives on makeshift boats heading here via Libya.
Alan, his five-year-old brother Galip and their mother Rehran, 35, were among 12 people who drowned off the coast of Turkish tourist resort Bodrum when their crammed escape boat capsized.
The Twitter hashtag ‘KiyiyaVuranInsanlik’ - meaning ‘humanity washed ashore’ - became the social media site’s top trending topic as pictures of Alan face down on the beach prompted global concern and calls for action.
Pope Francis urged Europe to accept desperate refugees into their homes, German chancellor Angela Merkel opened her country’s borders to allow in 1million and Britain promised an extra £100million for those fleeing Syria.
Some 2,646 Syrian refugees arrived in Britain under the government’s resettlement scheme between last October and the end of June, according to the latest Home Office figures.
Campaigners say the UK is failing to keep up the necessary momentum behind then-prime minister David Cameron’s pledge last September to accept 20,000 Syrian incomers by 2020.
And they fear that for all the shock and sympathy Alan’s death prompted, an anti-migrant backlash has been allowed to take hold across much of Europe - especially in nations such as Hungary, Macedonia and Austria where borders have been shut down again.
And more memories of Alan were evoked last month when harrowing pictures emerged of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, bloodied and dust-covered after an air-strike on his neighbourhood in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
More than 12million people have been forced from their homes since the Syria conflict began in 2012, with about 7million internally displaced and 4.8million officially registered as refugees in neighbouring countries.
There are thought to be 2.688million Syrian refugees in Turkey, 1.068million in Lebanon, 638,000 in Jordan, 246,000 in Iraq and 119,000 in Egypt.
And since 2011 there have been 1.1million Syrian asylum applications in Europe, with half of them in the past 12 months - while this year alone an estimated 85,000 children have risked their lives by sea attempting to reach Europe, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
World leaders are due to meet in New York later this month for new talks on Syria and the refugee crisis, in one summit led by Barack Obama and another by the United Nations.
But Rob Williams, chief executive of the charity WarChild, expressed scepticism about whether any agreements would 
He told Metro: ‘The reaction to the photo was encouraging - public opinion showed people suddenly understood there were real people in the refugee flow and it wasn’t just young men.
‘But while Europe may have temporarily tackled migration, the underlying suffering of 2million Syrian children goes on.
‘It might look like we’ve solved the problems but we haven’t - we’ve just hidden them more.
‘And this is where children are being targeted in a way we don’t often see in other conflicts.
‘They’re being recruited as child soldiers but they’re also being attacked for the impact on the wider population - if you bombard a child you terrify the whole village and everyone understands that nothing is protected.’
The European Union’s deal with Turkey, offering £5billion in aid as well as easing visa restrictions, has helped reduce the daily flow from up to 3,000 to the current 100.
But while the route via Libya has previously attracted largely migrants from eastern Africa, Mr Edwards warned this could soon prove more tempting to those escaping Syria and surroundings.
He said: ‘As it becomes more difficult to go through Turkey and Greece, many may start to migrate through Libya which is a much longer and much more hazardous route.’
And Steve Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee programme director, said: ‘The public outcry should have marked a political turning point, but the global response to the refugee crisis since Alan’s death has been an utter disaster.’
Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron, who helped push the government into promising 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children could be accommodated here, said: ‘A year on, the government’s pledge to help families like Alan’s has not been delivered on and too many children continue to die in the Mediterranean.
“Campaigners like myself are demanding that the government act now and help these desperate children. Their inaction shames our country, and discredits our proud history of helping those who have lost everything and are in desperate need of our help.’
Britain has committed £2.3billion to Syria relief efforts since 2012, according to the Department for International Development - with the stated aim to prioritise those in need in the surrounding region rather than in Europe.
The UN has appealed for a total £20billion in aid donations since 2012 but the world has promised just £11billion - and actually delivered only £8billion of that.
Mr Williams added: ‘We’re seeing a combination of not enough being committed and not enough of what’s committed actually being delivered towards the specific problems and needs of the children targeted and traumatised for years to come.
‘There are children coming out of, say, Aleppo, just six years old and who have known nothing for their entire lives but bombs dropping, neighbours screaming, families dying or desperately fleeing.’
Syrians - just like Syria - will need plenty of rebuilding help for decades ahead.

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