We’ve all seen the harrowing pictures in the news this week. A toddler lying face down on the beach, lifeless, after falling at the final hurdle in the journey to escape war.
It shouldn’t have come as a shock to us. We had been told it was happening. Stories of children dying during the crossing of the Mediterranean have been coming out since the crisis began in 2011. But our apparently heartless population needs photographic proof in order to sympathise. “200 dead after boat carrying refugees sinks” apparently pulls at our heartstrings less than a photo of one child.
Since then, an official petition has gained 300 000 of the 100 000 signatures needed to be considered for a debate in parliament. Celebrities have agreed to house them in their own (unused, driving up the rent prices, but never mind) houses. David Cameron even graciously agreed to house a few thousand more of 12 million refugees created by the crisis.
But where are these refugees now? Well this fantastic video by Swedish Professor Hans Rosling explains exactly where they are in a great visual way.
For those that didn’t watch the video, of the 12 million Syrians that have fled their homes since 2011, 8 million of them are living in different areas inside Syria. The remaining 4 million are living in neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Only a quarter of a million Syrians have made it to the EU to apply for asylum. And how many of those have made it to the UK? 216 as of March 2015. That’s compared to the 800 000 Germany will have taken on by the end of this year. I find it ironic that the people who claim they are fighting to defend the values of the country their grandfathers fought to preserve, are doing a worse job at preserving them than the people they fought against.
It’s obvious that we need to take on more Syrian refugees, but the numbers are only part of the solution. Currently, you can only apply for asylum from physically within the EU. If you are a Syrian currently living in Turkey, and you want to get to the EU, then you have to illegally enter an EU country. That means making the decision to cram your family into a small boat to cross the Mediterranean, knowing full well that you might not all make it across alive.
This is a decision that we should not be forcing anyone to make. EU members should allow Syrians to apply for asylum in their embassies located in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. They should then be granted legal and, more importantly, safe passage into the EU country that agrees to take them. Without making this option easy and readily available, then people will continue to make the journey across the Mediterranean illegally. Children will continue to die.
Accepting more is obviously a great step, but this means nothing if the journey is still a deadly one. To help spread awareness of this and drive a discussion on this aspect, I have created a change.org petition, asking for EU governments to do more to make this journey safer. Please sign and share it, and maybe we can make a small contribution to preventing harrowing images like the ones this week from happen again.