Saturday 22 October 2016

A tiny stranger on the shore speaks to the whole world

Published 03/09/2015 | 02:30

A Turkish gendarmerie carries a young migrant named Aylan, who tragically drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, in the coastal town of Bodrum
A Turkish gendarmerie carries a young migrant named Aylan, who tragically drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, in the coastal town of Bodrum

His name was Aylan, the little Syrian boy who, lifeless, lay on a Turkish shore. Tiny and helpless in his new state of eternal stillness. And yet he speaks to the whole world. He speaks of failure and abandonment, of a willingness to pay lip service to compassion but of a reluctance to show it. About two thousand others have perished as the sparkling Mediterranean becomes a graveyard.

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This small bundle of hopelessness, brought to us only by the graces of the tide, is part of the human flotsam and jetsam on which the governments of Europe - including our own - have by and large, turned their backs.

Aylan can't logically be called a migrant because migrants leave their homes to voluntarily seek work overseas. He's too small, too innocent to have volunteered for anything.

The 71 people who died in the back of a sealed truck on a lay-by in Austria last week also couldn't speak, or more correctly if they could, couldn't be heard.

They died agonisingly as Europe sped by about its business. All that remained of their passing were the indentations embedded in the side of the vehicle as they desperately banged and clawed for help.

But nobody came.

Instead the EU convened an "emergency" summit, to be held on September 14.

This surely begs the question what exactly is Brussels' understanding of an emergency? According to the dictionary, it is a sudden unexpected occurrence requiring immediate action.

The migration crisis has been going on all summer, so it is hardly sudden.

There is a deep dishonesty at the heart of much of the discourse. We either care enough to act collectively, humanely and immediately, or we do not.

It is that stark, as stark as a dead child on a deserted beach.

In normal circumstances, pictures of dead and dying children are taboo, but sometimes a shattering image of despair comes along that is too poignant, too imbued with suffering and pathos to ignore.

It commands attention and provokes an impulse. The suffering in Europe is real and passivity and inertia will not suffice.

Governments are responding, some with razor wire, guard dogs and water canons. Train stations are being closed.

All 28 nations have their own policies and they are patently not working.

In short, Europe's reaction is scandalous, given the scale and duration of this exodus.

Whatever the political difficulties, quotas are the only solution, at least in the short term.

To say that the entire European project is now in jeopardy is not an understatement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel clearly stated that the Schengen zone, which allows passport-free travel across mainland Europe, cannot continue in its current form unless other EU countries accept their share of migrants.

Where is the solidarity or common humanity that befits one of the wealthiest regions of the world?

Far from reaching out, a "fortress Europe" mentality is fast taking hold. Europe in its panic, is reaching in, and leaders are beginning to question whether the EU can continue to exist with open borders.

Ms Merkel has said: "We stand before a huge national challenge. It will be a central challenge, not only for days or months but for a long period of time."

It has been said that it's the children that the world almost breaks who grow up to save it. If children like Aylan cannot grow up, then surely the world is already broken.

Irish Independent

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