Britain is failing in its duty under international law and “as human beings” to offer those fleeing conflict a place of safety.

Adam Withnall & Matt Dathan

The pictures show a small boy lying face down in the sand on a Turkish beach as an official stands over him.

The child, who is thought to be Syrian, has drowned in an apparent attempt to flee the war ravaging his country. This images is a stark reminder that, as European leaders increasingly try to prevent refugees and migrants from settling in the continent, more and more refugees are dying in their desperation to flee persecution and reach safety.

The boy is one of 11 Syrian refugees feared dead after they drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean on two boats bound for the Greek island of Kos.

But while images of desperate refugees emerge almost every day, the attitude of Europe’s policymakers and much of the public have continued to harden.

In Britain, David Cameron and Philip Hammond have been criticised for the “dehumanising” language they use to describe refugees.

The Prime Minister described migrants coming to the UK as a “swarm”, and later said he would not “allow people to break into our country”.

Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said refugees were “marauding” around Calais. Amnesty International called his comments “shameful”.

Hungary has continued to build its razor-wire fence blocking off the 170km length of its border with Serbia, and on Wednesday police in Budapest blocked refugees from boarding trains to Germany for a second day running.

In the Czech Republic, some 200 refugees with valid train tickets were hauled off a train bound for Germany and given registration numbers, in permanent marker, written on their arms.

In the Netherlands, the government has announced a toughening of its rules that would see failed asylum-seekers cut off from food and shelter within “a few weeks” of being handed a decision.

Labour leadership front-runner Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at David Cameron over his “wholly inadequate” response to the Syrian refugee crisis. He said Britain was being “shamed by our European neighbours” by refusing to take in more than just a few hundred Syrian refugees and said we were failing in our duty under international law and “as human beings” to offer those fleeing conflict a place of safety.

Britain has granted asylum to less than 300 Syrian refugees since the start of 2014 – an embarrassing number compared to Germany, where up to 800,000 refugees are expected to be registered this year alone.

Even smaller nations such as Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Finland have offered more places to Syrians fleeing their war-ravaged country than Britain has.

Today the Prime Minister reiterated his stubborn stance: “I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees.”

Mr Corbyn accused Mr Cameron of failing in his responsibility as Prime Minister: “Nobody could fail to be moved by this harrowing and heartbreaking image,” he said. “It should remind us of the situation facing millions of people desperately fleeing a terrible civil war.

“The government’s response to the refugee crisis has been wholly inadequate, and we are being shamed by our European neighbours. It is our duty under UN law, but also as human beings, to offer a place of safety, and play a role internationally to share our responsibilities, and to try to end the conflict.”

Refugee child drowned

Source: The Independent here and here

02 Sep 2015

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