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How humanity failed Aylan Kurdi

The terrifying image of a drowned Syrian boy found on a Turkish beach has inspired a wave of Western soul-searching, with much talk about how “the world” failed 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned along with his mother and brother while trying to escape their country’s civil war.



//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAylan Kurdi’s tragic last words before drowning were ‘daddy, please don’t die’. The three-year-old Syrian drowned while trying to reach Europe. Pictures of his body washed up on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey, sent shockwaves round the world and has proved a turning point in the debate over allowing asylum seekers into Europe.

Aylan’s father Abdullah tried to save him as they struggled in the Aegean Sea. Aylan’s brother Galip, 5, and mother Rehan also died as their boat got into trouble in the water and capsized.

Mr Kurdi was the only survivor from the family of four. Aylan’s aunt Fatima Kurdi, who lives in Canada, said: ‘When the boat flipped upside down and the waves kept pushing down, those two boys were in his arms,’ she said as she burst into tears. ‘He tried with all his power to push them up above the water to breathe and they screamed: “Daddy, please don’t die”.’

Mr Abdullah realised Galip had died, so he let him go. Ms Kurdi said: ‘He tried to save the second one, Aylan. He looked at him and there was blood coming from his eyes. ‘So he closed his eyes and he let him go. He looked around for his wife. She was floating in the water. He said: “I tried with all my power to save them. I couldn’t.”‘

  • New York Times reactions:
But then the question becomes, which country has that responsibility? Who should have taken them in?

One answer is that nations that are directly implicated in Syria’s agony have more responsibility to accept refugees than nations that are not. The strongest obligation would belong to those countries — the Gulf States and Iran, above all — who have fed arms and money into the Syrian conflict. A weaker-but-still-meaningful responsibility would attach to the United States, because we too have sent arms and because of the links between our Iraq intervention and the region’s current chaos. Other countries would have more attenuated obligations, or none at all.

But the reality is roughly the reverse. Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are basically accepting no refugees. The U.S. is accepting relatively few. And the countries that have opened the door widest are places like Germany and Sweden, which are motivated by a different theory of moral obligation: A utilitarian universalism, which holds that the world’s wealthy nations have an obligation to accept refugees, period, regardless of whether their own governments bear any responsibility for the crisis that produced them.



The Premier says the picture of a Syrian toddler washed ashore on a Turkish beach was a "wake-up call" to Australia to search for a more humanitarian approach on asylum seekers.

Annastacia Palaszczuk said she, like all Queenslanders, was disturbed by the image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned with his brother and mother while fleeing conflict in their home country.
"What we are seeing across the world is what happens when wars cause a massive impact on society, where people have to flee those countries and seek refuge for a better life," she said.




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Image Credit: Twitter