Dead child’s photo heightens focus on migrant crisis
The photograph of a lifeless toddler lying face down on a beach went viral and launched an international outcry.
Despite that, European leaders are no closer to a solution in preventing more tragedies at sea.
The three-year-old boy was one of 12 Syrians who drowned when their boat capsized as they tried to cross the water from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos.
Alan Kurdi, his mother and brother all drowned.
His distraught father survived and has spoken of his desperate attempt to save them.
“We went into the sea for four minutes, and then the captain saw that the waves were high, so he steered the boat, and we were hit immediately. He panicked and dived into the sea and fled. I took over and started steering. The waves were so high, and the boat flipped over. I took my wife and my children in my arms, and I realised … they were all dead.”
The family, from the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani, reportedly wanted to eventually reach Canada.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has described the deaths as a terrible tragedy.
Mr Harper says he and his wife first saw Aylan Kurdi’s photograph online.
“You know, the first thing that crossed our mind was remembering our own son Ben at that age, running around like that. It brings tears to your eye. I think that is the reaction of every parent, anyone who’s ever had a two-year-old, or been near a two-year-old, been a parent in Canada or anywhere around the world. It truly is a heartbreaking situation. It’s a terrible tragedy, and I know all of our hearts go out to those who are touched personally by this tragedy.”
Pressure has mounted across Europe for leaders to do more following the circulation of the images.
In Britain, an online petition urging the government to accept more refugees has drawn more than 100-thousand signatures and could now be debated in parliament.
Prime Minister David Cameron has yet to announce any new measures to deal with the migrant crisis, despite increasing pressure from other EU states and in Britain to accept more.
But Mr Cameron says the country is doing all it can to help Syrians.
“Anyone who saw those pictures couldn’t help but be moved, and, as a father, I feel deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey. And Britain is a moral nation, and we will fulfill our moral responsibilities. That’s why I sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean that saved thousands of lives. That’s why Britain meets our commitment of 0.7 per cent of our economy spent on aid, much of which goes to North Africa, goes to the Middle East to help those countries. That is why Britain’s the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to those Syrian refugee camps.”
Meanwhile in Hungary, a stand-off between migrants and police continues at the international train station in Budapest.
Chaos erupted as crowds of people burst into the station and rushed towards a standing train, only to discover no international trains are leaving the station for now.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has defended his country’s tough response to the migrant crisis.
That has included building a long fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of migrants entering from the south.
Mr Orban says his country does not want to take in large numbers of Muslims.
“We believe that all countries have the right to decide if they want to live together with populous Muslim communities. It is their right to decide. And if the decision is that they do want that, then they will live together. But we don’t want that. And in my view, we have the right to not want to live together with populous Muslim communities. This is our policy. We think that we don’t want that. We do not like what stemmed from that in Western European countries. Perhaps those who did it liked it, but we don’t like it.”
French president Francois Hollande says Europe needs to unite to find a solution.
“I am thinking here of the victims who were never photographed, who are ignored and of future victims if we do nothing, and that’s why it’s time to act. We are going to act. We have already acted.”
President Hollande says he and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel are proposing a series of measures to deal with the situation.
He says they will be submitted at a summit of European Union ministers, that begins on September 24th.
Commitments that appear too little, too late for Alan Kurdi’s father:
“My kids were the most beautiful children in the world. Wonderful. They woke me up every morning to play with them. And they’re all gone now. Now, all I want to do is to sit next to the graves of my wife and my children.”