Like so many of us, I have been shocked to see the photo over the past couple of the small boy washed ashore off the coast of Turkey. He is understood to be one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos. As The Guardian stated, this is just one of many horrific examples of ‘the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west’.
I feel so sad, and so overwhelmed by the situation. So overwhelmed that it was tempting to turn off, and not read any more. But then I realised where this little boy had been found. He was found on the shores of the City of Bodrum. A city which I’d visited nearly nineteen years ago with my then boyfriend (now husband).
I got my diary out from the trip to remind myself of the place. I’d described it as having a ‘beautiful central core, set out around the marina, with the bazaar located behind’.
I’d noted that Manchester City were playing a turkish soccer team, and our hosts had invited Al to watch and share tea together, while I remained in my room, reading ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ (getting into the spirit of the locality). I’d noted how, after the turkish team won, the streets were filled with supporters, driving around tooting their irritating musical horns (just like they do here in Lygon Street in Melbourne).
And I’d noted one of the highlights of our trip – a sailing cruise from Bodrum, around little inlets and out to mud baths, snorkelling, drinks and delicious food with other tourists. For the first time in nearly two months of backpacking, I felt sufficient trust that I could leave my money belt safely, and was able to enjoy the water and the day. Because the people that we met in this town were so friendly and so kind. So like us.
It is devastating to think of the suffering that people from Syria and other countries must feel – how desperate they must be to risk their lives at sea. But it is also terrible to think how the responsibility that people in countries, often countries reeling from their own poverty, are now bearing as floods of refugees try to reach somewhere that they hope will be safer. The people of Bodrum, and of Kos, are not equipped to deal with the needs of these poor people.
Meanwhile, the Australian Government sits back and says this is an example of why we must ‘stop the boats’. Stopping the boats will not address the poverty, the violence, the insecurity that drive these people in troubled countries to risk their lives to find a better alternative. ‘Stopping the boats’ will not take the pressure off some of the poorest countries whose people are bearing the brunt of the needs of refugees, often giving so much more than they are able to, in order to help.
Yes, there will be implications if we as a nation to do more to help. And yes, we need to ensure that we do not shift the costs in our own community, for instance by further reducing benefits to those who are already in desperate need. However, we cannot continue to pretend that we don’t need to play a part in helping to address these needs.
There are people suffering – both the refugees and those from the nations where these refugees flee. These are human beings suffering. These are people – just like us.
If you want to help, a great place to start is through the Oxfam Australia Appeal. Click here to find out more