The boy’s face says it all. Bewilderment, resignation – immune to the horror of what is happening. He has seen war as commonplace for years. His family – mother, father, siblings – are still to be rescued. He casually wipes the blood from his forehead: it is no big deal. Then he waits patiently for the ambulance crew to bring in more children to be taken to hospital.
The boy is only 5 years old. His name is Omran Dagneesh. The place: Aleppo, Syria.
We are all horrified, numbed by the image and even more so, the video (see below). Both went global.
But we have already learnt from the image of Alan Kurdi lying dead on a Greek beach that such shocking images have a limited shelf life. For a few days or weeks after that image had gone ‘viral’, refugees were welcomed. Then, one by one, the borders were closed.
Remember the 50,000 refugees stuck in Greece? Well, they’re still there. The process of assessing who is an asylum-seekers and who isn’t takes time and it takes even longer to organise a country to take them once that process is complete.
Back to Syria – here’s a few numbers to mull over…
- 16,000: the number of under 18 year-olds who have been killed since the conflict began.
- 250,000: the number of people in total who have died during the war.
- 11,000,000: the number of people displaced – i.e. refugees – during the conflict.
Source:: “Violations Documentation Center in Syria“;
- 18,000: the number of people who died in jails in Syria as a result of torture. Source Amnesty International report (includes video)
Over to Calais…
Altogether more than 88,000 unaccompanied refugee children have sought asylum in Europe. Thousands more have gone missing (possibly kidnapped by sex traffickers).
In Calais of the 400 or so unaccompanied children, 150 are entitled to live in the UK under the Dublin Agreement. A further 200 are eligible for sanctuary in the UK. So far, however, a mere 20 unaccompanied children have arrived in the UK from Calais under these arrangements.
Central government blame councils. Councils blame central government. More children go missing. Indifference rules.
Governments are doing nothing about these children at Calais. On a daily basis their needs are met by individual volunteers with organisations such as Citizens UK, Help Refugees UK, Refugee Youth Service. They need more help (and money). Big time.
In the meantime we still have the image of Omran. But for how long? A day, a week? And when will the indifference return?
Oh, yes…what about the Australian bit?
After news that Aboriginal youths were brutalised in detention centres in the Northern Territory, now news has emerged that Aboriginal youths are similarly abused in Queensland (still image below taken from leaked video):
So what have war-ravaged Arab children, Calais jungle kids and abused Aboriginal youths in common?
Answer: white indifference.
More exact: each story of what has happened – of the Syrian boy in the ambulance, of the plight of the unaccompanied children abandoned in the ‘Calais jungle’, and of the dreadful abuse of Aboriginal kids in Australia – sees a wave of revulsion, of outrage that lasts for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. Then it all subsides. Distractions come along. Life continues.
So does the suffering.