The picture of the little Kurdish boy’s lifeless body, washed up on the beach in Turkey, should have been enough to register the hopelessness, the futility of the migrant crisis going on as I write this, in Europe. It was a symbol in many ways – the parent in us mourned the boy’s sad fate and hearts were touched. He was too young to be thus swept away in a torrent of tragedy. Yet, powerful as his picture is, the tragedy underlying the refugee influx is neither fully grasped nor serious enough to warrant the attention of a world occupied with everything trending on line.
His little feet would have lost their grip on a boat jammed with people – he and his brother were not wearing life vests. They didn’t have a chance of surviving out at sea ; they escaped from a nightmare on land only to be swallowed up by the waters. As tragic as it is, how can we try to make sense of it all?
Thousands of migrants are jamming the entry points into Europe ; the despair written on their faces may not tell the whole story. As much as the world wants to identify with it, as much as the world is dismayed by it, there are other things to consider, saner counsel that must prevail. As the ISIS seeks to throttle any civilization left in the ancient heartlands of the Middle East, how is the world reacting? When you want to stop the flow of water, you plug the leak. Then only will you choose to deal with the overflow. Are we plugging the leak that has led to millions of people leaving Syria on a treacherous journey in search of a better life? Is the world doing enough to make sure those people can be kept in their own shores and taken care of?
There are more questions here than answers. Is the desperation written on their faces one that stems from losing their homes or from wanting to simply migrate to a better life? How would we know and how can we identify the true and genuine asylum seeker from the economic migrants? How would we know who is an ISIS sympathizer and who isn’t, in that maddening influx of young men, boys and adolescents cramming railways and walking on rail tracks in countries choked up with a refugee influx, from Greece to Hungary?
We in Sri Lanka have dealt with such issues before – you might say we have hindsight into such problems. When civil war broke out in Sri Lanka with the terror group that held the record of being the world’s deadliest before ISIS came along, the LTTE which perfected the art of suicide bombings , there were asylum seekers from war torn areas who went in search of a better life to Europe, the US and Australia ; as time went by, during the thirty years the war lasted, the refugees gradually became economic ones although their stories may have been believable in many ways. Then the war ended in 2009 and the world woke up to the reality that they could indeed go home. A few in reality, did.
The human smuggling rings are smarter than the world’s law enforcement authorities, a fact that many are not able to grasp. Until a year ago, the well organized gangs kept a lucrative business of smuggling people to Australia from the shores of Sri Lanka. The Australian Government was swift in dealing with this outflow ; today, a few would dare to try the boat journey through the dark seas into Australian waters.
Until and unless the world and its police forces choose to deal with the satanic rings of human smugglers, whose profits lie in exploiting other people’s misery, we would continue to see the horrors of children dying and families daring to cross through some of the world’s dangerous routes.
As sad as it all seems, as hopeless as it all seems, it can and must be dealt with. Not because we feel guilty about our safety nets that are not available to those unfortunate families but because we need to stand up to the evil of humans being treated and transported like goods. All in the name of better lives.
I am choosing not to feel guilty although the picture of that child moves me to tears – I am choosing to argue that the world and the powers of US, Europe, Middle East, Asia and the UN must step in to deal with the well organized criminals.
Until then, RIP little one. Just being shocked and saddened at your death nor sharing your picture on social media, will help you and others like you. We as the world must take action.
May yours be the last such death that will haunt our world.