THAT photo has got be the turning point. The dead toddler on the beach. Three-year-old Alyan Kurdi, lifeless in his little black shoes.
His five-year-old brother Ghalib drowned too, and his mum, but it was the picture of Alyan that must surely be the one that galvanises us. To stop listening to spineless, vote-centric politicians about there not being enough room/houses/money.
Of course there is. We are one of the richest countries in the world, yet the number being bandied about so far — although it looks like this is about to change — is 600 refugees. can take in 600 refugees. Not 60,000 or 6,000, but 600. Imagine if we Irish had been given such a number, arriving in other countries on our coffin ships, half dead and escaping starvation. Sorry, number 601. We’re full. Go and die at sea.
Refugees need deeds, not words. Of course many ordinary Irish and British people, horrified at what is happening on our doorstep, are already scrambling to send stuff to Calais — warm clothes, sleeping bags, tents, cooking equipment, food, even the abandoned wellies collected after Glastonbury. Dictionaries and candles and sanitary towels. The absolute basics for the kind of camping nobody would ever want to do, unless they were fleeing genocide or starvation or both.
People have been ringing Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, asking what they can do. Lots of people offering their spare rooms, and wanting to pitch in. If the red tape were cut through, Nasc’s CEO Fiona Finn tells me how many people would like to open their homes to the refugees so desperate to escape war that they are dying in the effort to leave. The hideous irony is that they then die in the so-called safety of Europe, in our seas and in the backs of our lorries.
We need to create a shift in this narrative, like those football fans with their Refugees Welcome banners. We have the money, we have the space. Politicians need to know that apart from a few stone-hearted nimbys, people want to help, that public opinion is not the Daily Mail or The Sun.
There may be a housing crisis, but we are hardly sleeping under tarpaulin at a ferry port, or watching our wife and kids drowning in front of us, as did Abdullah Kurdi.
The more we do as ordinary people, the stronger the message is — that as humans, we want to help our fellow humans. There is a national march planned this month, and a family fun day fundraiser on September 18.
The Cork Calais Refugee Solidarity Group are bringing a convoy of stuff over later in the month. It’s all online. We need to do more than just tweet about this.
Deeds not words. As a nation of former refugees, we need to make the words céad míle fáilte actually mean something again, and not just for rich tourists. Let. Them. In.
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