The desperately sad and painfully difficult image of the young boy lying face down in the sand having been washed up onto a Turkish beach has seemed to jolt the British media (and Government) into understanding what a catastrophe we have on our hands. After running stories such as “refugees ruined our holiday”, while constantly slandering and running a campaign against these people, it is now quite frankly embarrassing to persist with this rhetoric when faced with such haunting images. One must ask themselves what would possess people to risk such a fate? Why would one risk the drowning of children? The only possible explanation for this is pure, cold, terrified desperation. They believe they have more of a chance on a rickety raft in the ocean than staying put. Doesn’t that say it all?
The media would have us believe that a majority of these people are simply economic migrants trying to better their situation, but now it has been presented to them on a plate that this is about life and death – they have no choice. The media have questions to answer. When did it become a journalist’s job to present stories in a biased manner in line with some sort of agenda? When did it become acceptable for news distributor to even have an agenda other than presenting the truth? If one is to present a story, at least try and make it sound objective. The rhetoric spilling out of The Daily Mail, The Sun etc has helped contribute to this suspicion of desperate refugees, and has helped turn public opinion against them. This in turn has no doubt contributed to UKIP’s rise as a formidable force and by extension David Cameron playing politics with people’s lives. Has this image helped them realise the error of their ways? In the short term perhaps, but in the long term I doubt it.
Currently, there are thousands of refugees stuck at Budapest and Munich train stations being prevented from venturing further into Europe. I heard one migrant on the radio say (and I’m paraphrasing here), “equality, freedom, in Europe they say these are human rights, not European rights!” and he’s spot on. We have a “moral responsibility”, as David Cameron said, to let them in. Do we want to be remembered as the people who abandoned the desperate and dying to their fate? As those who watched dispassionately as thousands died so they wouldn’t disrupt our way of life? No. Some people may find it inconvenient that their train to Paris is delayed by a few hours, but just try and imagine the inconvenience of floating across the Mediterranean and trekking across half of Europe just to keep your family alive.
Interestingly, our Prime Minister yesterday said we have a “moral responsibility” to help the desperate while confirming that we will be letting in thousands of refugees. However, just 24 hours earlier he said that accepting more refugees would not help the crisis. It shows how easy it can be to detach one’s self from horrors and dehumanise people when disconnected from reality. When presented with the brutal, unadulterated truth (such as this image is) it becomes almost impossible to ignore. We cannot therefore criticise Cameron too harshly for this u-turn as much as we can for not coming to this enlightenment earlier on in the process. Can you imagine how heartless he would have to be not to reverse his views after seeing this?
In a sense though, Cameron was correct beforehand. Simply letting more refugees into the country will not help. After all, they have to get to Britain first and that is a long journey. How is us opening our gates going to help those crossing the ocean in overcrowded boats? Making more spaces for refugees in this country should not be a priority. There are a lot of protests and petitions trying to persuade the government to let more in when we should be focusing on keeping these people safe, helping them on their journey, not telling them “we’ll welcome you in if you can get here”. They must negotiate all sorts of life threatening hazards first and as such Europe must work together to help the refugees get here safely before anything else. Once they’re safely across to the mainland we can figure out logistics, we can distribute them accordingly. But we should not leave them to their fate. Next we shall be looking at how the West has contributed to the crisis in Syria et al.