by Jess Howard
In my last article for The Norwich Radical I talked about risks, the risks of those who disregard their personal safety, instead preferring to take time to photographs of death, danger and carnage on their smart phones. This article is going to continue in a similar vein, focusing on the risks that individuals are willing to take, but for far different reasons. This week I will focus on the dangers that thousands of refugees are currently encountering, as a means escaping the war and conflict in their home countries.
Last Wednesday, newspapers, television reports and social media all featured the same horrific image. The image was a photograph of a drowned 3-year-old boy being carried by a Turkish border guard, after his body had been washed ashore, in an attempt to reach the Greek island of Kos with his family. The boy, identified by Turkish authorities as Aylan Kurdi, drowned when two boats travelling across the Mediterranean sea, carrying 23 people in total, capsized. The boy and his family were attempting to seek refuge from their home country of Syria, a country that is currently being controlled by the so-called Islamic State. They made up a minute fraction of the 4.1m refugees who have sought asylum.
Opinions on immigration have long been divided, with many believing that those seeking refuge should not travel to the UK, for fear of them placing a strain on our resources. Prime Minister David Cameron previously took a hard stance on the issue, firmly stating that Britain will take in no more refugees. Britain has housed just 216 Syrian refugees since the war in their country began. Cameron argues that the solution to the migrant crisis is not to take in more people seeking refuge, but instead to work with these countries to end war and fighting, helping them to achieve a stable level of peace. However, as the severity of the situation has increased, he has agreed that Britain should do more for those in need, by helping those still living in Syrian refugee camps that are most at risk.
They are not risking their lives travelling through Europe to seek refuge because they want to, but because it’s the only option that they have.
This idea of not helping those in need completely and utterly baffles me. People have sought refuge in the UK for years, all for a number of reasons. Many aimed to escape their war-torn countries, whilst some seek to escape the repressive nature of their countries’ laws. People have been known to travel in dangerous and unsafe for travel boats, and underneath travelling lorries. But if certain countries in Europe refuse to allow these people to live safely, where do they go? They are sent back to their own countries to re-experience the conflict they had risked their lives to escape.
To me, the image of Aylan Kurdi being lifted from the water shows a level of arrogance on behalf of certain members of the British population. As previously mentioned, many believe that there will be a strain on British resources and the already volatile employment market. That, if migrants from other countries settled in the UK, there will be fewer jobs available for people already living in Britain. Without considering that, if the people of Syria were safe in their own country, they would happily stay there. They are not risking their lives travelling through Europe to seek refuge because they want to, but because it’s the only option that they have.
So instead of seeing the photograph of Aylan Kurdi’s body being carried out of the water as a representation of refugees travelling to the EU to deliberately place a strain on European economy, see it instead as a representation of the risks people are willing to take to keep themselves, and their families, safe.