Aylan Kurdi and the migration crisis

September 3. In a red shirt and dark lilac knickers, Aylan Kurdi, 3, also in coffee-brown baby boots, lied lifeless, washed ashore a beach in the Turkish city of Bodum.

Aylan was from Syria. He, appropriately, his family was on the line of escaping the war squat over at his home state. They had hoped to settle in Canada. Claims by relatives, revealed that the Canadian Immigration Department rejected their application in June. The distraught father, Abdullah Kurdi, 40, was forced to rely on a 15-foot smugglers’ boat to travel to the Greek Island of Kos, to find asylum and a bit of comfort for his family.

“The waves were high, the boat started swaying and shaking. We were terrified.” Abdullah told New York Times on Thursday, trying to suppress tears. “I rushed to my kids and wife while the boat was flipping upside down, and in a second we were all drowning in the water. I started pushing them up to the surface so they could breathe …”
In a statement revealed by Hurriyet Newspaper, he said to the Police, “I was holding my wife’s hand, my children slipped away from my hands. We tried to hold onto the boat … Everyone was screaming in pitch darkness. I couldn’t make my voice heard to my wife and kids.”

The boat sank, drowning three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, with his mother, Rehan, 27, and his brother, Galip – the image of washed-up Aylan Kurdi on the Turkish shore, particularly, stretching media and people ire. Similarly, few days earlier, 28 August concisely, Austrian officials found the decomposing body of a tiny girl, no more than 2 years, along with other decomposing bodies of 71 people, abandoned in a truck on the side of an Austrian motorway. They, too, like the Kurdi family, had attempted to seek asylum in Europe.

“This reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity,” Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, said after the bodies were found.

Migration to Europe is multi-layered. Migrants have various reasons for undertaking the journey, paying small fortunes to board smuggler boats, even when disturbingly over-packed.
A June 2015 UNHCR regional operations profile showed that, EU member states received 216,300 applications for asylum last year. It also showed that the number of migrants this year has already topped 100,000 (which is about 15% higher than the last record year). A large number of these asylum seekers, it reported, were fleeing from Syria (civil war), Eritrea (dictatorship) and Mali (another civil war).

António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, maintains that the status of “refugee” affords certain legal protections. Navigating this red tape takes time, it seems, as many host countries are reluctant to accept refugees. To tug this difficulty, refugees entrust their fates to smugglers, which for the most part, leads to tragic results; the number of deaths could be put mildly at, at least, around 2000, although there has been no official statistics on them. Even the migrants who safely reach European shores, still face more difficulties. The EU Rules states that, “asylum petitions are processed by the country in which migrants first arrive.” As a result, southern countries like Malta, Italy and Greece have been overcrowded by numbers of incoming migrants, while richer northern countries are relatively undisturbed.

By TIME, until last year, Italy had a program in place to find and rescue migrant ships, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives. It spent $9.7 million a month to fund the program, and so, turned to the rest of Europe for help. The United Kingdom and others refused support for rescue operations, for they feared doing so would “encourage more people to attempt to make the dangerous sea crossing.”

While Italy and the rest of the EU struggle, New York Times and World Bulletin report that Turkey has been hosting 1.6 million displaced Syrians within its borders, or about half the people who have fled Syria since the fighting began in 2011. The total cost to Turkey is estimated to be $4.5 billion. A new regulation has also been introduced by Turkey, to give the Syrians a more robust legal status in the country, to enjoy access to basic services like; health care, and education.

There might be 28 countries in the European Union, but just five — Germany, Hungary, Italy, France and Sweden — took 80 percent of the asylum applications in the first three months of the year, Eurostat data shows.

Germany takes the bulk. Their officials have reported they expect to receive 800,000 asylum applications this year — nearly double the forecast made earlier this year. That is more than any other EU country and more than the 626,000 applications received by the entire EU last year.

“This is a challenge for all of us, [but] Germany is not overwhelmed,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, told the BBC.

Last Saturday, Italy’s coast guard rescued north of 4,000 migrants off the coast of Libya, after receiving distress calls from more than 20 boats.

Such generosity is not entirely limited to these five countries. Earlier last week, Iceland spawned internet dash boards and the papers when more than 10,000 people asked their government to take more Syrian refugees than it had pledged to. They offered their homes to host them. Iceland’s population is about 320,000 people, and by such terminus, it means that 1/32 citizens has offered to help.

In a divergent skein, some countries are taking rigid stance on the problem. For example, Hungary and Macedonia have positioned security forces along their borders, to stop the flow of men, women and children who have traveled from the Middle East and North Africa.

But most disturbing, is that the countries that sent the most weapons to Syria since 2011 only accepted, for numbers, 2 percent of the refugees Germany has taken in. More than $16 billion has been sent toward the inside of Syria, by these countries, providing support for warring factions, since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.

For details, the US bears a special responsibility for the wreckage in Syria — and by extension its refugee crisis. According to US UNCUT, it spends near $1 billion a year, in covert military assistance for rebel groups in Syria, as well as spending $10 million a day, on 6,550 airstrikes on ISIS, with 37% of those strikes taking place in Syria. But by International Rescue Committee report, the US has accepted only 1,434 of Syria’s 4 million refugees (though, it pledged to accept up to 8,000). This is terrible, verging on seismic face-palms, given the wealth of the US in comparison to other more hospitable countries.

According to the US UNCUT, too, an estimated 10% of Russia exported weapons are sent to Syria. They reportedly have $1.5 billion worth of ongoing arms contracts with Syria, for various missile systems and upgrades to tanks and aircraft. But Russia has accepted 1,395 Syrian refugees, but more appallingly, they were accepted on temporary asylum.

The Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have also played a weighty role in Syria’s wreckage, fanning-out billions in weapons and cash to Syrian rebel groups. Qatar alone, spent at least $3 billion over the first two years of the war. The Kuwaiti government — which has invested, at least $800 million in Syria since 2010 — spent an initial $100 million, funding the Syrian civil war, and an additional $300 million has been channeled into the country since 2011. Saudi Arabia, thought to be a leading source of arms for rebels by 2013, has partnered with Turkey and Qatar, to channel an estimated $136 million of arms to rebel groups across the border from Turkey, in an attempt to bring down Bashar-al Assad, Syrian President. The United Arab Emirates has sent $215 million (in alleged “humanitarian contributions”) to Syria since 2011. US UNCUT reveals. Awfully, none of the Gulf nations has pledged to accept any Syrian refugees.

The United States, by contrast, has about 1,000 times the population of Iceland. If the US took in Syrian refugees at half the rate that Icelanders have pledged, then it would be able to quarter 5 million refugees, more than the entire population currently in need of assistance.

This, however, does not demand compulsory refugee in-take by these states, but it reveals how wide the gap gapes in their common duty of humanity, directed to individuals in distress.

To my view, to ease the burden on the supporting states, the UN needs to adopt a “fair distribution” strategy, as called by Germany, among all EU countries, the US and Canada. This system appears the only way to impose some order and stability, though it would require a huge amount of co-ordination and goodwill amongst states.

But such approach, it seems, might not be free of insensibilities and anti-migrant violence. Germany recorded 202 attacks against refugees and asylum shelters, including eight cases of arson, in the first half of this year, the Associated Press reported, citing Official Data. Also, in Macedonia’s southern border with Greece, security forces have reportedly used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets, to stop people from entering the country.

These, however, are expected, as they necessarily are attendant to this seemingly un-ending snag of support for the gluts of fleeing migrants. With a bit more humanity from the US, Canada, and other skirting countries, Aylan Kurdi might still continue to live, perhaps, sucking animatedly at a milk binky, in a tuck someplace in Ottawa.


Ezebuike Temple is a writer, and an ultimate year law student in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He lives in Lagos.

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