The beach at Culleton’s Gap, Curracloe, Wexford. Christmas Eve, 2012.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a café in Brussels (where hundreds of refugees are camped in parks, understandably turning down government dormitory accommodation). I’m Irish. I live here, for now. I migrated here, but I’m not a refugee. But look at the history of the Irish diaspora, or that of your own country. Look at how many people in your family or friends are descended from or connected someone who was displaced by war or crushing economic pressures, and think, did any of these people – the Syrians stranded on the beaches of Kos, or arriving in Munich ever dream they would become refugees?
Last week, as I nestled my dozing two-month old son in my arms, my mind kept drifting back to the photograph of Aylan, the three-year old Syrian boy who perished on Turkey’s shores, after his family’s attempt to reach Greece, and the European Union. I shed a tear, for the unfairness of it all. For the father of Aylan, who had lost his entire family. In thanks for the health and safety for our little boy. In anger, and shame for being part of a system that forces small kids to cross the sea at night, unreliable boats, or push through razor wire in order to claim their basic human rights.
Europe, and some of the wider world, seems to have woken up to some sense of the enormity of the current refugee situation, following the publication of the publication of the Aylan images. It’s not that I or others, were unaware of the Syrian war – as many Europeans are – but perhaps we all assumed that someone, somewhere was taking care of the problem – after all, that’s why we pay our taxes, right?
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