This Is Not A Picture Of A Refugee

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turkish beachThe above is a truly heartrending photo that is dutifully doing the rounds of western papers wringing the souls of any who read the story. It is truly tragic, harrowing even, rightly shocking the world – but it is not the picture of an Asylum Seeker.

Sadly this poor child’s death was not unavoidable, his life was not at risk.

Abdullah Kurdi and his family had indeed been at risk in their native Syria. They had suffered through one of the most appalling wars of recent times. No one would deny this. Nor should we deny that he had taken huge risks and not inconsiderable bravery to get his wife Rehan and his two children Galip and Aylan out of Kobane where they lived, across the border into Turkey.

In Turkey they had found a safe haven. Since 2011 Turkey has taken in two million Syrian refugees. Abdullah had a flat for himself and his family, and the rent was being paid for by relatives. In getting his family there Abdullah was indeed a hero, and a hero is what he would have remained had he not taken that absurd, insane decision to take his wife and family from this haven, and out onto a crowded unsafe dingy on a suicide mission to the Greek islands. There were no life jackets, the boat was unseaworthy and the weather and sea against them. The boat overturned and Abdullah’s wife and children drowned. It was entirely avoidable.

This is not a case of travelling to seek Asylum. Abdullah’s sister has confirmed that earlier this year a refugee application, made to Canada, had been rejected precisely because they had fled to Turkey and thus were safe and not in need of Asylum in Canada. Such rejection is usually accompanied with a ban on any further application for ten years. Since Canada has a reputation of being one of the most accommodating of countries in granting Asylum, one has to wonder why he felt that moving to Europe would be such a good bet.

There are many arguments that can be made for speeding up Asylum applications, or introducing a points driven migration system like Australia, or mandatory quotas for European countries to take up these refugees. Perhaps some European countries might follow Britain’s example, and assist in establishing accommodation and relief in neighbouring countries like Lebanon or Jordan. There is no argument to be made for moving from a safe place and recklessly placing one’s family at such peril.

So this a not a case of people rushing from a war zone seeking Asylum and safe shelter. Rather, there is an argument that this is a personal family tragedy, with Abdullah as an unsafe parent whose wanton disregard for his children’s safety make this such a sad case of child abuse. As it is, his actions were not brave, they were those of culpable homicide.

Copyright David Macadam 2015

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