Friday, 4 September 2015

Killing with Kindness

Anyone with a heart would be appalled at the picture of a dead toddler washed up on the beach at Bodrum, now being bandied around by papers like The Independent who link the story with their petition to let more refugees into Britain. As emotional blackmail goes, you don't get much more blatant or cynical.

However, it's worth looking a bit further into the story behind this shocking image before reaching the conclusion that throwing open the doors is the humane and decent thing to do.

Ayland Al-Kurdi, the boy who drowned had fled with his family from the war-torn Syrian city of Kobane. They had applied for asylum at the Canadian consulate and been turned down and were staying in the resort town of Bodrum in Turkey, far from the fighting in Syria. It was from Bodrum that they attempted to make the short sea crossing to the Greek island of Kos, where presumably they believed onward travel within the EU would be easier.

They could have applied at a European consulate in Turkey and made the journey overland quite easily in relative safety. Instead they chose to make a risky and illegal journey in the belief that this would speed up their resettlement. With Angela Merkel saying that Germany can take 800,000 refugees, you can't really blame them for trying. Who in their right mind would not attempt such a journey, when you can see Kos from the beach in Bodrum?

That though, is precisely the problem. Europe, with it's crowded cities and faltering economy simply can not throw open its doors to millions more migrants. The rise of right-wing parties across the continent demonstrates that Europe's population recognises this. The notion that we can is a dangerous delusion.

This child was not killed by those who recognise this and are demanding a tougher stance on asylum, but precisely by those like Merkel who deny this obvious reality and continue to encourage thousands to make these risky journeys in the mistaken belief that they will be welcomed with open arms and enjoy a life of plenty if they can just cross the 4km body of water between Bodrum and Kos.

True kindness is not competing to take more mirgants than we can absorb but sending a very clear message that illegal entry to Europe will not be tolerated or rewarded. Only then will we stop seeing these heart breaking images which are the inevitable consequence of encouraging thousands of desperate people to make dangerous journeys for which they are woefully ill-equipped.