Europe’s migrant crisis is being tossed around between nations like a stick of dynamite that no government wants to take responsibility of even though all are in some way affected. I was taken aback when former British Prime Minister David Cameron criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for meeting with and conversing to as he so condescendingly put it: “a bunch of migrants”. Prior to this instance Cameron referred to the flow of migrants crossing into Europe as “a swarm”. In Cameron’s position it makes political sense to objectify and dehumanise migrants because by getting the public thinking in the same vain they’re less likely to press for a resolution. By using such objectifying terms he not only shows contempt for constructive international policy but also for the human side of the migrant story.
I was awoken to the human side of this story when I saw a photo on the internet last September. The photo depicted three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying face down on a Turkish beach. He looked so still and composed. He lay in the sand, eyes shut, as though he were asleep. If only that were the case. The harsh reality is that Alan had drowned among many others, including his brother Galib and mother Rehana, trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. The effect of such a tragic photo on human emotion is intense and provokes a multitude of questions. It strikes deep at our inner humanity. Alan Kurdi has come to represent the thousands who’ve lost their lives in the Mediterranean attempting to make it to Europe.
When we attempt to contemplate the current refugee crisis we are attempting to contemplate the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War. It’s easier to measure it in terms of numbers and statistics as they’re simpler to comprehend, don’t require any internal moral conflict and can be flung onto any corporate PowerPoint with ease. The refugee crisis is simply too big at this stage to be swept under the rug but the refugees themselves should not be unfairly scapegoated lest history repeat itself. There’s good and bad in person, in every group, but a lack of true understanding leads to an unfortunate intolerance. As the photo of Alan Kurdi has illustrated to the masses, there is so much more to the crisis than that. Alan shows us the value of one life in a tragic narrative where lives are so easily disposable. There are too many like him who haven’t been photographed.