I admit, my knowledge of politics in the Middle East, and the horrific atrocities which are happening in the name of civil war and fundamentalist misinterpretation of religion is sparse. This is partially by choice; I try, as much as possible, to see the world as a place where there is good, and if I were to fall into the rabbit hole that is seeing past my rose tinted glasses, I would have difficulty in doing so. I have a basic knowledge of what is going on, growing by the day, but this week I have had to take pause, as has much of the world, thanks to an image which has started a very necessary conversation about people. People just like you and I, parents, children, siblings, grandparents. These people are someone’s children. That baby, a child of just three, is the same as any child of yours or mine.
I spent four wonderful summer holidays in the beautiful area of Bodrum, Turkey, where the photograph that has caused the world to stop and think and talk was taken. To me, it has been a place of wonderful memories of family, sun and fun. This week, it became the site of what has become the symbol of our current world crisis. It is where a beautiful three year old boy, dressed in clothes not unlike those folded in my sons wardrobe, lay like he was sleeping with waves lapping around him. He was not asleep. He was dead, the victim of a tragic drowning, on a journey ironically which was intended to give him a better life. He was not the only one to die, his mother and brother died too, and tonight there is a broken hearted man returning to Syria to bury his whole world, which he was trying to bring to a safer place. That little boy, now a symbol, is just a little boy. His name is Alyan. A person, not a symbol.
I initially felt conflicted about the photo. As a parent, my heart screams that someone stopped to take a photograph before scooping that poor child up and trying to see if there was any chance of saving his tiny life. He is somebody’s baby, just like yours or mine, not a still life object. However I understand that this image is unfortunately what this world needed to kick our arses into gear and realise the impact this situation is really having. It was intended to shock, and shock it certainly did. No little boy should be taken so soon from this life, it isn’t fair to think of all the life he could have had, snuffed out in one fell swoop.
It breaks my heart. As a parent, I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child who you have held, rocked to sleep, soothed when they were upset, received delicious cuddles and fervent affectionate kisses from. I would rather relive every sleepless night of screaming teething, every public tantrum, every frustrated moment than have to deal with never having to deal with any of those ever again.
There is a situation which the world is trying to ignore carrying on right under our noses. People are leaving their own countries in droves, and when borders are being closed to prevent their escape from a life of constant fear and danger, they are paying large sums of money for an unsafe mode of transport for a chance to escape to a life where they can go to sleep at night and wake the following day knowing their child will be smiling up at them. I would be that parent, without a doubt. When it comes to my child, I want to give him the best possible chance at life, and if we were in such a situation (it is merely luck of fate that we are not), I too would be placing my bets and my hopes that we would be the lucky ones to make it to the new promised land. It is not a decision that anyone could make lightly; the risks are known but they outweigh the alternative. They are not leaving for mere adventure or the hopes of finding work elsewhere – which many of our Irish youth have been for the past generations, described as “migrants”. They are leaving to escape persecution, real danger, dangers we can try to ignore by switching the channel or not listening to the news but that they cannot as it is their reality. They are refugees, seeking refuge from horrors that we cannot even begin to imagine.
There has been a lot in the media recently about how many “migrants” we are expected to take in from the “Calais situation”. I was on a local radio station last week discussing my difficulties in finding somewhere to live, and the topic quickly turned after my interview to how “we should look after our own and not take this lot in”. It is true; we do have a housing crisis in this country at the moment. It is something our government needs to work on, and quickly. However that does not negate that this is a humanitarian crisis – it is not simply that they are wanting to come in and take houses from our own – they are merely wanting to live a life without fear and with some stability. They want a future, and we as a country, of former emigrants and refugees alike, can go a way towards ensuring this is possible. Our government has not been doing enough regarding direct provision and the conditions in which those people have to live within this country; however it is a better alternative than closing our borders and saying there is no room at the inn. Reverse the roles a moment and tell me how you would feel, having risked life, health and livelihood to escape the dangers your own country cannot protect you from, to reach the finish line and be told “Our doors are closed. You can’t come here”. There are rumours of groups being brought away on trains being told they were headed for Austria but instead being brought to camps – unfortunately this to me sums up an image of a rather dark part of European history, and it is only my faith that the world has surely learned that tells me it is not the case. Ireland is revered for being the land of a thousand welcomes, a friendly nation, known for our kind hearted nature around the world. We cannot close our eyes, our hearts and our borders to people genuinely in need.
We just can’t. It is a disgrace that it has taken the body of a tiny person with their future ahead of them to make the world stop and think – but now that we have, we need to act.
So what can you do?
- Sign the petition to ask the Irish Government to do more to help. Just click here. For anyone in the UK you can sign a similiar petition here.
- There are numerous charities helping the refugees crossing the Mediterranean sea. Please, please donate even a few euro to Medecine Sans Frontieres, Amnesty International, or Trocaire.
- Alternatively, if you’d like to be part of a very worthy organised event the Irish Parenting Bloggers have organised a virtual coffee (or tea!) morning – check out and ‘like’ the Facebook Event page here – to help raise much needed funds for the Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity Campaign. On Friday, September 11 just pour yourself a cuppa; go to http://www.irelandcalaisfund.ml/ and make a donation to the fund (we suggest €5 per person but please give what you can) and upload a screenshot of your donation plus a pic of yourself enjoying your cuppa to your Facebook page or other social media channels and tell your followers all about it. Then just link to this event to encourage your friends and family to take part too. It literally couldn’t be simpler or easier to fit in with time constraints 🙂
While this has been a topic which has touched me right to my core, something I’ve not been able to take off my mind, I have written this post as part of a blog hop from the wonderful writers of the Irish Parenting Bloggers group. We hope that this blog hop will hopefully raise some awareness and encourage others to join the fundraising efforts listed above. You can check out the other wonderful, thought provoking posts by clicking the link below.