The heart-rending photos of a drowned boy washed up on a Turkish beach stirred the international community into a flurry of pledges to help the millions displaced by fighting in Syria, but one year on many of those promises have not been delivered.
On 2 September 2015 the clothed body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi was photographed lying face down at the water’s edge before being picked up by a Turkish police officer.
Syrian Kurds Alan, his brother Galib, mother Rihan and father Abdullah were trying to reach Greece from Turkey when the boat they were on with 18 other asylum seekers was hit by rough seas shortly after setting sail and sunk.
Abdullah, the only family survivor who now lives in northern Iraq, said today that the images of his dead son might have spurred a burst of compassion but it had faded quickly.
“At first the world was anxious to help the refugees. But this did not even last a month,” Mr Kurdi told the BBC.
“In fact the situation got worse. The war has escalated and more people are leaving.”
There are an estimated 6.6 million people displaced within Syria and 4.5 million living in nearby countries, many of whom are seeking permanent resettlement.
Europe has fallen far short of resettling the number of refugees that it promised to last year. A collection of European states promised to resettle 66,400 Syrians living in Greece, but so far only 5,142 have been accepted. Australia has also proved slow to bring in the 12,000 additional asylum seekers from Syria that it committed to resettle in addition to the regular intake of humanitarian migrants.
It has been reported that only 2000 people from Syria have been resettled and that has happened in the past six weeks with The Guardian Australia quoting official sources as saying Australia will now speed up the intake.
The Uniting Church has called on Australia to take a greater number of Syrian refugees and a greater number of asylum seekers overall.
In a recent Friday Forum we noted how a picture of another boy has refocussed the world’s attention on the suffering in Syria.
The dust-covered and bloodied figure of five-year-old Omaran Daqneesh sitting staring blankly in the back of an ambulance after being pulled from the rubble of his home in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo created a fresh outcry about a conflict that has largely slipped out of Australian news bulletins.
On this week’s Friday Forum, we ask:
How do we maintain the compassion and empathy beyond the emotional response that images of tragedy evoke?
Image sourced from Twitter