The image of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy on a beach in Turkey, is heart wrenching.
Aylan’s five-year-old brother along with their mother died in the attempt to seek a safe haven. This tragedy and the pain of the father at the burial site, has touched hearts deeply, permeating the consciousness of the world. People globally are demanding immediate action to increase access and aid across borders and help refugees from Syria.
This year alone, some 2,500 children and adults from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, as well as from several African countries, have died making perilous journeys in overcrowded boats, cramped, unventilated trucks, or by foot on dangerous routes, seeking safer lands.
Equally as shocking as the image of the lifeless body of little Aylan is hearing Prime Minister Stephen Harper not only defending the government’s shackling refugee policy, but also insisting that the solution to preventing these tragedies is more bombing and killing. The real, humanitarian solution is peace and an end to not only this war but all armed conflicts.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire’s account of her visit to Syria, heeds this very call — stop the bombing and take immediate steps for peace and reconciliation. Syrian women’s networks have been actively advocating for an inclusive, non-violent negotiated settlement. It is time Canada’s government stopped the inflammatory statements about “bogus claimants” and political fear mongering, and begin actively dismantling the fortress-style policies of a two-tiered system with its obstructive restrictions.
It is time for our leaders to embrace the UN peace process strategy. The UN High Commission for Refugees found that between 2010 and 2014, Canada dropped from fifth to 15th in the list of industrialized refugee-receiving countries. The number of refugee claims decreased by 50 per cent and the number of accepted refugees dropped by 30 per cent between 2006 and 2012. Harper’s projected figures of 10,000 over the next four years amounts to a paltry 1,200 government sponsored refugees per year. Shameful!
It is equally as shameful for the Minister of Citizen and Immigration, Chris Alexander, to defend the government’s decision in reducing the level of health care and other critical services for refugee claimants. Knowing the sheer desperation of people fleeing war, persecution, poverty, occupation, one would expect a glimmer of compassion.
Let us in the same way as the Kootenay Refugee Coalition continue to envision a humanity where there is real justice and all can enjoy a meaningful and peaceful life. Let us embrace diversity and continue to welcome refugees to our communities.