By now everyone has seen those tragic pictures of little Alan Kurdi lying dead on the beach face down, or of the Turkish official gingerly carrying him away. People would need to have hearts of stone not to be sad, or angry enough to cry out at the injustice of it. To shout at the government, or reach into our wallets to help.
The helplessness of the situation is compounded by the fact if the Kurdi family had made it to Canada as had been the family plan this might not have happened. Instead it might have been a different family that suffered; a different child brought out of the water. We can torture ourselves with that line of thinking, but it doesn’t change anything.
Instead let’s look forward. As often-quoted yesterday Canada helps 1 in 10 refugees. Taking it up to the thousands: for every 100 thousand refugees Canada helps 100. According to Citizenship & Immigration’s website Canada has plans to re-settle 10 thousand Syrians by 2017. Should that number be higher? Given the circumstances probably yes. But it has to be matched with resources, and answered with another question: Are there enough Canadians (individuals, families, charities) to support increased numbers? If we do more it has to be something that blends compassion and practicality.
Canada isn’t entirely to blame on this one. Terry Glavin wrote a column in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday. He uncovered some interesting information including that the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) doesn’t register asylum seekers in Turkey. Turkey for their part doesn’t issue exit visas to people without documentation (passports, declarations from the UNHCR). Families like the Kurdi’s arrive with nothing and aren’t granted exit visas by Turkey. It’s inconsistencies like that which need to be fixed as well.
The best way to make the tragedy count for something is to fix this. But Canada can’t act alone.
Interested in learning more about how you can help? Visit Lifeline Syria’s website.