Unlike the mass deaths caused by natural disasters, the deaths of thousands of refugees trying to reach Europe comes in installments, dripping slowly into our far safer world.
Rather than an instant trauma, these deaths seem a tragedy divided into episodes packaged neatly for the never-ending news cycle. They underline the international community’s occasional ineffectiveness in the face of terror, despotism, or religious extremism. These open-ended deaths goad us to do something more concrete than feeling outraged.
The UN refugee agency has said that as many as 700 migrants have drowned in recent days. Three disasters, on consecutive days, have caused the largest loss of life reported in the Mediterranean since April, 2015, when a ship sank with an estimated 800 people trapped on board.
In the face of disaster on this scale, individual action seems pointless, but it is not. Alf Dubs, 83, a Labour member of Britain’s House of Lords, this month forced David Cameron’s government to accept thousands of the estimated 26,000 child refugees in Europe. Mr Dubs was one of one of 10,000 Kindertransport child refugees rescued from Prague in 1939. Just as his past shaped his determination to save some of these children, this crisis offers this society an opportunity to try to atone for the wrongs done to so many children — especially as our inaction on this crisis is moving from the realm of indifference towards the edges of criminality.
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