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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: US obligated to help Syrian Refugees

If you’ve been on the Internet in the past few days, you have probably seen the heartbreaking image of Aylan Kurdi, a three year-old Syrian refugee whose boat capsized on the way to Greece. Aylan’s family, like those of 4 million other Syrian refugees, was escaping war-torn Syria in search of a better life in Europe.

Aylan is pictured lying face down in the sand, his feet laced lovingly in little tennis shoes, dead.

Those who have seen the image have felt their stomachs drop. Nothing brings to light the reality of a crisis like the death of a child. Dozens of media outlets have realized this, using the tragic photo as an opportunity to draw attention to Europe’s broader refugee crisis.

Political cartoonists have modified the image to make powerful statements about Europe and much of the Western world’s failure to address the crisis.

One cartoon depicts the boy on the sand; next to him lays a crumpled visa application stamped with a bold red “REFUSE.” Another especially poignant depiction shows Kurdi in the same facedown position, but this time on a cozy bed. The caption says, “How this story should have ended …”

Kurdi is not the only child lost in the midst of this political turmoil. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 2,500 people have died this summer while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Just last week, 70 people on their way to Europe were found dead after suffocating in a truck off a highway in Austria.

Though appalling, these stories and their subsequent media coverage have finally prompted people around the globe to recognize a humanitarian crisis that has largely been ignored. It’s easy to see that something must be done to protect the lives of these immigrants.

What’s not so easy to see is our own failure—how we, as Americans, are responsible in part for these deaths.

The German government has been at the forefront of enacting moral policy and doing what they can to address the humanitarian crisis. “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,” says Amanda Taub in an op-ed for Vox. In the four years since Syria’s civil war began, the U.S. has resettled only 1,434 of the millions of refugees who have left the country.

To put that miniscule number into perspective, according to Taub, “Nineteen times that many people attended Taylor Swift’s latest concert in Omaha.”

The U.S. plans to expand its resettlement program in the next year, pledging to accept between 5,000 and 8,000 refugees before the end of 2016. At best, that number is still not even a third of the population at a single Swift concert venue. This “aid” is not even a Band-Aid on the gaping wound our country is obligated to heal.

The U.S. undoubtedly has the resources to take on more refugees. Our minimal aid is laughable compared to that offered by numerous less well-equipped European countries. It adds insult to the injury of those seeking refuge.

While the issue of the Syrian civil war is extremely complicated, our response to the plight of its refugees should not be. Americans need to realize our stake in the conflict and resolution, not wait to be prompted by the deaths of children to open our eyes.

Follow Hailey Dickson on Twitter.

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