RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Taub writes: "The death of any child is devastating. But these children's stories are particularly painful to read about, because they carry a reproach for readers like us: We let this happen. We left those innocent children to this fate."

An Italian rescue worker carries a refugee baby saved off the coast of Italy earlier this summer. Photos like this are a reminder that Aylan Kurdi's death was sadly predictable: we already knew that children were making the dangerous crossing. (photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP/Getty)
An Italian rescue worker carries a refugee baby saved off the coast of Italy earlier this summer. Photos like this are a reminder that Aylan Kurdi's death was sadly predictable: we already knew that children were making the dangerous crossing. (photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP/Getty)


When You See That Drowned Syrian Boy, You Should See the United States' Shameful Failure

By Amanda Taub, Vox

04 September 15

 

he human tragedies of this summer’s refugee crisis are beginning to feel unbearable. Yesterday, photographs of a drowned Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world. His name was Aylan Kurdi. He was 3 years old, and his 5-year-old brother is also believed to have died at sea.

And just days earlier, Austrian officials discovered the body of another refugee toddler, a tiny girl no more than 2 years old. She and 70 other people, including three more young children, suffocated in the back of a smuggler's truck, which was then left abandoned by the side of an Austrian highway. They, too, like so many others, were refugees who had hoped to find safety in Europe. Their journey, too, ended in tragedy.

The death of any child is devastating. But these children’s stories are particularly painful to read about, because they carry a reproach for readers like us: We let this happen. We left those innocent children to this fate. We knew refugee children were in danger, and did nothing, and this is the result.

And make no mistake: We did know. As the refugee boats have crossed the Mediterranean, photograph after photograph has showed rescue workers cradling tiny babies and toddlers rescued from the water. We knew desperate families were bringing children on these journeys. We knew they would keep coming, because what could drive a parent to bring a child on such a dangerous crossing except fear that staying behind would be worse? And we knew that if we didn’t do more to help them, many of those children would die — and so would their families.

But apparently those children weren’t dead enough to hold our attention. An infant saved from a boat wasn’t good enough for us: We needed to see one dead on a beach, lying alone, face down, in the surf.

And so the world has treated the refugee crisis as a sort of bureaucratic inconvenience, a problem that someone else really ought to be handling. But the truth is that those are just excuses we tell ourselves to feel better about the fact that we’re not doing the right thing. Because make no mistake: This is a situation where there is a right thing to do. And we are not doing it.

Germany is now beginning to show moral leadership on the refugee crisis, and to call on other countries to come forward and do their part before more children and their families die. But the United States, like much of Europe, has not followed suit. Our silence and inaction are shameful.

To grasp the magnitude of the United States’ failure, you first need to grasp the magnitude of the crisis the world is facing. Approximately 4 million Syrian refugees have fled that country’s years-long civil war, which means that Syrians make up nearly 25 percent of the world’s total refugee population. The vast majority of them are in the Middle East and Turkey, with Turkey alone hosting 1.6 million people.

These camps are the first line of global, Western, and American failure. This summer, the European Union, United States, and Kuwait respectively pledged $1.2 billion, $507 million, and $500 million for aid to refugees. That's good, but it's still far short of the $5.5 billion in aid that the UN says is needed for these refugees, as well as another $2.9 billion for displaced Syrians within Syria. As a result, the camps are often crowded and undersupplied, which leaves the people who live in them cold, hungry, and subject to the ravages of disease.

This summer, hundreds of thousands of refugees have made their way to Europe, with most crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats and rubber dinghies. Those boats are barely seaworthy, so tragedies are frequent: UNHCR estimates that 2,500 people have died just this summer while attempting to make the crossing. This is the second line of failure, as European policies designed to discourage migration not only fail to help refugees, but make their journey more dangerous.

But many people do successfully cross, contributing to what has become the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. This is the third line of failure, and it is where America's failure in particular is perhaps starkest.

The German government expects 800,000 people to seek asylum there this year, and hundreds of thousands more are expected to seek asylum in other European countries. The United States, by contrast, has resettled 1,434 Syrian refugees over the four years since the conflict began.

Take a moment to consider just how small a number that is: 1,434 people! Nineteen times that many people attended Taylor Swift’s latest concert in Omaha. Ten times that many people ride the city bus line I use for my commute every day.

Those 1,434 people wouldn’t even fill three 747 jets. And 1,434 people is just over half the number of refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean this summer during their desperate flight to safety.

Nor do we intend to do much better in the future. The US has pledged to take between 5,000 and 8,000 people by the end of 2016. But that number is still pathetically tiny. Twelve thousand refugees arrived on the shores of the Greek island of Lesvos last Monday alone. The United States taking a fraction of that many over the next 15 months isn't meaningful help — it's just adding insult to injury.

We know what doing the right thing looks like. We're just not doing it.

A refugee father and his baby arrive in Malta after being rescued at sea. (photo: GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images)
A refugee father and his baby arrive in Malta after being rescued at sea.
(photo: GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images)

Contrast the United States' shameful inaction with Germany's moral leadership in the past few weeks. Germany is receiving such large numbers of refugees so quickly that its government is transforming abandoned big-box stores across the country into emergency refugee shelters that can hold large numbers of people. The influx has provoked xenophobic violence as well as a political backlash against the government for not doing more to keep refugees out, which German leaders have resisted.

The rest of the EU has largely failed to act on the crisis, leaving Germany, along with border countries like Greece and Italy, to handle the problem on its own.

And yet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to her great credit, has resisted political pressure to abandon the refugees, and instead insisted publicly that these people are worthy of protection and entitled to help.

To be sure, Germany had to be pushed into that leadership role. Thousands of refugees have already arrived within its borders. It is not resettling them from elsewhere, as the United States has pledged to do. But Merkel's government is not merely doing the minimum it can get away with: Last week it voluntarily suspended an EU regulation that would have allowed Germany to deport Syrian refugees to EU border countries, and will let them stay in Germany instead.

Nor is such generosity limited to Germany. Earlier this week, Iceland made headlines when more than 10,000 people asked their government to take more Syrian refugees than it had pledged to, and offered to open their homes to host them if necessary. Iceland's total population is only about 320,000 people, which means that an astonishing one in 32 citizens personally offered to help.

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

That is not to argue that the US necessarily should do this — it's difficult to imagine even the logistics of such a thing — but rather to point out how desperately wide the gap is between the responses of countries that are taking moral leadership on the refugee crisis and what America is doing.

America isn't just failing to do the right thing — it's actively embracing that failure

A rescued family carefully hands their toddler to safety after reaching shore. (photo: Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescued family carefully hands their toddler to safety after reaching shore.
(photo: Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images)

Here in the United States, our politicians have been all too happy to ignore the problem, and the American public has been all too happy to let them.

The fact is that taking in more Syrian refugees is the right thing to do. It would save the lives of desperate people, and ease the burden on our allies, who are struggling to cope with the sudden arrival of thousands of people.

It would not be excessively difficult: This country already has a large, expertly staffed refugee resettlement program that could handle the logistics of resettling Syrians, and a host of private charities that are experienced in helping refugees settle and integrate into communities across the country that could assist them when they arrive. We are the richest country on Earth, and opening our borders to more immigration would help this country to grow even richer. There is no serious argument against taking in more people.

And yet not only are we failing to live up to that moral obligation, we are embracing our failure. Donald Trump has ridden an ugly wave of xenophobia to the top of the polls in the GOP primary, proving that not only do many Americans hold anti-immigrant beliefs but they are proud of them, and thrilled to have them validated by a national political figure. And the Obama administration has failed to show the kind of leadership on this issue that Merkel's government has, instead remaining content to accept a tiny trickle of people and ignore the rest. Apparently, saving children from drowning at sea violates Obama's "don't do stupid shit" foreign policy doctrine.

And so children will continue to drown in the Mediterranean and suffocate in the backs of trucks. And their families will die alongside them. And we will pretend it has nothing to do with us.

But it does. There is a right thing to do here. We're just not doing it.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+9 # SalzburgStan 2015-09-04 09:49
Don't forget Canada, which denied them asylum
 
 
+24 # REDPILLED 2015-09-04 10:02
US/NATO war policies in North Africa and the Middle East are primary causes of this refugee crisis.
 
 
+15 # JPS07 2015-09-04 11:41
That is true. And not just North Africa and the Middle East. The policies of the US are turning into a threat to world peace.
 
 
-11 # MidwestTom 2015-09-04 10:33
Muslim countries throughout the Middle East have average population ages from 17 to 25 due to rapid reproduction resulting in vast poverty, and poor, if any, education. Meanwhile the western countries have populations with an average of 30 to 45, due to restrained reproduction.

Those who restrain are being overrun by those who do not. Will civilization and democracy survive in Europe? With the study of only the Koran in the madareses, which leads to great scientific advances, enhance the civilization of Europe?
 
 
0 # bardphile 2015-09-04 11:43
Thanks for raising the issue, Tom. I disagree with you on most issues, but not I hope to the point of ignoring the facts. Overpopulation is the elephant in the room when issues of immigration and refugee settlement are discussed, and many choose to ignore it. (If overpopulation is the elephant, environmental catastrophe is the hungry alligator). Trouble is, the refugees and immigrants are human beings with compelling needs and often inspiring stories, and deserve, as much as you and I do, the opportunities we've been blessed with. So we let them in, and in the USA give them amnesty once every generation or two. Overpopulation, by contrast, is a chronic, impersonal concept. So we give in to human need, or compromise or look the other way, even though compromise plus time equals surrender in the battle to keep our society sustainable.
 
 
+4 # Misterioso 2015-09-04 15:42
We get it Tom.
You're just another ignorant, two-bit racist, hate-mongering Islamophobe and Arab basher.

CRAWL BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK.
 
 
0 # lfeuille 2015-09-04 19:23
Quoting Misterioso:
We get it Tom.
You're just another ignorant, two-bit racist, hate-mongering Islamophobe and Arab basher.

CRAWL BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK.


Yes, this is what it's about for Tom. Not concern about over-population . That's just a smoke screen.
 
 
+16 # Archie1954 2015-09-04 12:00
The little child's death is also a result of rampant right wing extremism. I'm speaking of the Conservative Canadian government's refusal to accept this child and his brother as refugees even when their aunt, a Canadian resident offered to sponsor them. Conservatism like this is disgusting and perverse. Canada has supported the demented and decaying American empire and its destruction of Syria and therefore has a duty and responsibility to assist the poor Syrian people caught in the mess the US started!
 
 
+2 # elizabethblock 2015-09-04 13:19
Canada offered Canadian citizenship to the father. He refused. Quite right.
 
 
+12 # geraldom 2015-09-04 12:45
The following is a repeat of what I posted in a previous RSN article:

I'm sorry, but one can ultimately blame the United States for the death of this young child for its continued support and protection of the Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad.

The U.S. had instigated this civil war in Syria and has created a proxy U.S. military using a Syrian rebel army it continues to support with modern weapons and training for the sole purpose of overthrowing the Assad government.

The U.S. is fueling this alleged civil war and feeding its flames. The fact is that if it wasn't for the U.S. instigating and supporting this so-called civil war against Bashar Assad, the war would have ended a long time ago with Assad still in power and you wouldn't be seeing so many Syrians attempting to escape to Europe, and this young child might still be alive.
 
 
+7 # harleysch 2015-09-04 17:39
Absolutely right -- those refugees leaving Syria are not fleeing Assad, but the civil war which resulted from the U.S./Obama "regime change" policy, and the U.S. role in Iraq, Libya and Syria, which led to the ascendance of ISIL.
 
 
+3 # elizabethblock 2015-09-04 13:21
A century ago, it was hard leftists who thought that all you had to do was destroy the political system that you didn't like, and one that you did like would arise to replace it.
Now it's the hard right who believe this -- at least, judging by their actions. W. thought that if he brought down Saddam Hussein, Syria would become a liberal democracy allied with the United States.
Sure.
 
 
+6 # Misterioso 2015-09-04 15:52
No one with an IQ over room temperature thought that the Bush/Blair et al. illegal, immoral and cowardly invasion/occupa tion of Iraq would lead to it becoming a "liberal democracy."

The objective of the US and Britain et al was to gain control of Iraq's oil spigot. Needless to say, they failed.

However, they did manage to kill well over a hundred thousand Iraqis, displace about three million and destroy the country's infrastructure and social structure. As a result of their fascistic strategy, Bush, Blair and co. sowed the seeds for the rise of ISIL, a gang of bloodthirsty murderers and rapists posing as Muslims.
 
 
+3 # Radscal 2015-09-04 15:59
"The objective of the US and Britain et al was to gain control of Iraq's oil spigot. Needless to say, they failed."

What makes you think they failed? Iraqi oil production has gone up every year since our invasion, and is now at a historic high level.

http://www.indexmundi.com/energy.aspx?country=iq&product=oil&graph=production
 
 
+11 # Radscal 2015-09-04 13:32
Yes, the way the US and our allies are treating these refugees is reprehensible.

But the issue is that US foreign policy is CREATING these refugees in the first place.

There were no huge numbers of refugees fleeing Libya in 2010. It was the most prosperous country on the continent and had very low poverty rates.

There were no huge numbers of refugees fleeing Syria in 2010. It was one of the most prosperous countries in the region, with higher education levels and a larger middle class than most.

And of course, there were no huge numbers of refugees fleeing Iraq in 2002 either.

All three of these were prosperous and remarkably stable countries with secular governments.

Anyone who chooses to look at the publications and speeches of the NeoCons knows who wanted to destroy these countries and why. The bloody, failed states left in our wake and the millions of dead and millions of refugees are not "failures."

They were and are the goal. "Mission Accomplished!"
 
 
-6 # vermin_rat 2015-09-04 14:20
WHY IS AMERICA RESPONSIBLE FOR IMMIGRANTS WHO ARE USUALLY MOVING FOR ECONOMICAL REASONS? THIS NATION CAN NOT ACCEPT ALL DISLOCATED PEOPLES BY WAR OR NATURAL DISASTERS. HELP SHOULD BE GIVEN AT THE HOMELANDS OF THESE FOLKS WHEN POSSIBLE. SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL REFUGEES CAN BE ACCOMMODATED WITHOUT ACCEPTING HORDES THAT SEEK BETTER JOBS.
 
 
+5 # Misterioso 2015-09-04 15:53
Your nom de plume could not be more appropriate.
 
 
+5 # lfeuille 2015-09-04 19:25
Quoting vermin_rat:
WHY IS AMERICA RESPONSIBLE FOR IMMIGRANTS WHO ARE USUALLY MOVING FOR ECONOMICAL REASONS? THIS NATION CAN NOT ACCEPT ALL DISLOCATED PEOPLES BY WAR OR NATURAL DISASTERS. HELP SHOULD BE GIVEN AT THE HOMELANDS OF THESE FOLKS WHEN POSSIBLE. SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL REFUGEES CAN BE ACCOMMODATED WITHOUT ACCEPTING HORDES THAT SEEK BETTER JOBS.


Jackass. They are escaping war. They are not economic migrants.
 
 
+4 # janie1893 2015-09-04 15:05
We in North America do not yet understand that humanity is at a crossroads. We can allow this ugly behaviour to continue or we can realize that, ultimately, it is our brothers who are dying while we passively look on. If we just allow it to continue, we must take blame for what the results will be. If we intervene and actively try to save those people, we will evolve to another level of insight and wisdom.

This turning point is critical to our species. We die out or we become more than we are at present. We remain a species of animal or we evolve to a higher level of existence.

It is our choice.
 
 
+3 # shrubs 2015-09-05 05:32
This ENTIRE tragedy is caused by the US/NATO destruction of their countries. The refugee issue will be solved when we stop destroying their homes directly or through proxies.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN