A year on from Alan Kurdi

Orient Net - The Guardian 2016-09-04 04:30:00

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Yvette Cooper writes in The Guardian remembering the Syrian child whose body was found on a Turkish beach which "shook the conscience of the world." 

Cooper says that since Alan Kurdi drowned last year, 400 children whose names we will probably never know have lost their lives in the Mediterranean and that ten thousand child refugees have disappeared in Europe, in addition to millions of children who have been forced from their homes.

Some in government seem to be hoping that a year on campaigners will give up and that the pressure to act triggered by a child’s photo has gone, and we will conclude that it is too hard to make a difference or maintain public support, Cooper goes on to say.

"But we won’t. The lesson of the last year should be that however difficult things look, we can still save lives and children’s futures. But we have to keep the pressure up," the writer argues. 

"The moral case for action is stronger than ever. The disturbing image last month of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, dazed, dusty and bloodied on a plastic ambulance seat, was a searing reminder of what people are fleeing. All countries have a responsibility not just to help those fleeing persecution but to protect children from suffering.

"Our security interest in tackling the refugee crisis remains as powerful too. Criminal trafficking gangs are getting stronger, extremists are able to exploit the crisis, and the disorder of an unmanaged response threatens community cohesion and stability."

Cooper adds that far from being impotent, there are practical things that governments could be doing right now to help child refugees, adding that Theresa May and Amber Rudd should go to the global summit on refugees led by US President Barack Obama later this month to try to reach new commitments on aid and resettlement, as well as resolving conflicts that are forcing people from their homes. 

"Last week in Calais I met a Syrian teenager who was given Home Office approval two months ago to join family in Britain, but still hadn’t been given his paperwork to travel, leaving him alone, scared and tired, in a gang-ridden camp. After our cross-party visit attracted and coverage in the Guardian, the Home Office finally gave him a date to rejoin his family – in a further fortnight. This kind of delay puts children’s safety and lives at risk," the writer says.

Cooper concludes that "future generations will judge us on our response," adding that "we must not let our government’s foot-dragging leave children at risk and put us all to shame."