We’re all responsible for helping the Syrian refugees

Saving desperate people

We live in a world where toddlers are washed up on a beach like bags of trash tossed from a passing ship, and still our local micronazis try to paint these victims as aggressors of some sort. A swarm of Muslim ideologues ready to destroy our culture and our history.

An army of dead, drowned Islamic toddlers trying to destroy our way of life.

We live in a world of utter obscenity.

I apologise for posting this image, but it has to be done. If anyone finds it offensive instead of finding it unutterably sad, I’m sorry for them. I truly am sorry for them.  This is the moment when a Turkish policeman discovered a drowned toddler on the beach at Bodrum, a place where many Irish holidaymakers bask in the Mediterranean sunshine.

syrian toddler bodrum


I can’t speak for you, but this picture tears my heart out. I want to scream. I want to take the pitchforks and the torches to the filthy hovels where our local micronazis cower. I want to drag them out of their lice-infested mattresses and I want to force them to look at this obscenity.

I want to shout at them. Here is your Muslim invader, you ignorant, rabble-rousing arseholes. Your identity is not my Ireland. 

Now. Who’s responsible for creating the flood of refugees out of Syria and into Europe?

Well, let’s just hold our horses right there. What flood of refugees?

Of the 22 million people living in Syria before the war, twelve million are now homeless.

According to UNHCR figures, almost eight million are internally displaced within Syria, which is a polite way of saying that they live in fear and squalor in the land they once thought of as their own country.

Another four million are refugees in neighbouring lands, principally Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, though the numbers in each country are not what you would expect.

The two huge countries in the region, Egypt and Turkey show a stark disparity. Egypt, with a population of 90 million, has taken 130,000 refugees while, in contrast, Turkey, population 78 million,  has taken almost half of all fleeing Syrians — nearly two million desperate displaced people.

Down the scale, tiny Lebanon with a population the same as Ireland, has accepted 1.2 million while Jordan has taken in 600,000.  Israel, of course, has taken none, by contrast with poor shattered Iraq, destroyed by years of war following the 2003 invasion,  which has welcomed a quarter of a million.

What does that leave for the European Union, the world’s richest trading bloc, with a population of half a billion?

Only a tiny fraction of all displaced Syrians — 270,000 people — are seeking asylum in Europe.  To put that in perspective, Lebanon on its own is caring for five times as  many refugees.  So much for swarms. So much for floods of migrants, as some people like to call these desperate people fleeing murder by ISIS, by Jabhat al-Nusra and by Bashar al-Assad, each in their own way created by the West, of which we are a part and from which we benefit massively.

Returning to the question. Who is responsible for the flight of Syrians?

Right now, the major source of fear is ISIS, which, as I have argued elsewhere, was created directly as a result of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, the UK and Australia, with assorted other participants to lend it legitimacy.

Therefore, it’s possible to make a strong case requiring the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to carry the major burden of looking after ISIS victims but guess what? That’s not going to happen and in truth, it makes little difference to Europe since the numbers are so small in relative terms.

If Europe accepted every last refugee from the Syrian war, we’d be taking in one person for every 2,000 of us.

Surely two thousand Europeans could afford to rescue a single toddler from death on a Turkish beach?


32 thoughts on “We’re all responsible for helping the Syrian refugees

  1. Righteous outrage Bock. And like you, most of us are heart sore from images like this. And as for the ‘fix our own problems first’ brigade, I want to take them all out and flog them. I/we have feck-all, screwed by taxes and charges and everything else, but we’d gladly give more of our hard-earned money if it would go towards helping and housing some of the people we see desperately fleeing from their hideous circumstances. What can we/should we be doing to make it happen? To make the government of Ireland take responsibility to our fellow human beings? Just tell me and I’ll do it.

  2. The photograph from Turkish media is a photograph of an obscenity. I am seething.

    I do not mean that the photograph is in itself obscene, no, it is overwhelmingly saddening.

    The obscenity I’m referring to is the direct role of the western nations, in particular, the US the UK and France that have lead directly to this gut-wrenching image.

    My congratulations to George W Bush, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Niicolas Sarkozy, take a bow gentlemen.

    (now excuse me while I vomit)

  3. Just coming home from a merry meeting with friends and discussions just about that. With mixed results.

    Shortly before I started a thread on boards.ie: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2057486884
    with even more mixed results and which was closed by some mod, rightly so or not.
    I was horrified reading about the response I’ve got, it was full of fear and prejudices. Not in my backyard – they are all here to sponge the system – they are terrorists – bla bla.

    That picture above is very emotional and doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s powerful and probably does tell a bigger story than anything else.

    And again I ask here: Would you take in a refugee yourself, as I asked on boards (with negative results – not in my backyard)?

    Would you start an initiative like this one?

    By the way, it’s not only about Syrians, there are many more nationalities which means even more people.

    I do understand the fear of people feeling “swamped” by refugees (in the summer time I even feel “swamped” by tourists who think nothing of invading my space literally) but I don’t understand how anyone can close their eyes to desperate people, especially in Ireland where the memory of the Famine is still glorified – with desperate people seeking a better future elsewhere.

  4. I would be very interested in helping set up an Irish branch of Welcome Refugees if anyone else is? First though, we need to get our gov to cop on and allow refugees into the country.

  5. The refugee panic is similar to what happened in Eastern Europe in 1945 as the Third Reich was defeated and Germans, Poles and ethnic Germans (described as Rucksacksdeutscher) trekked dangerously through Russian and American and British controlled military areas in search of safe havens. How did governments react then to a situation getting ever more desperate? What did NGOs including church-related groups do in 1945-48? Can they repeat the spirit, if not the details, of those postwar years?
    There is a temptation to throw stones at culpable governments – they are legitimate targets for past political /military blunders and misdeeds. But now the response of civil society – of us and our civic associations – is critical. Are we up to the implications of tasks awaiting our energies and imagination?

  6. The real reasons for this obscenity go back way beyond the present century, in fact about a hundred years, to when Great Britain, which then included the whole of Ireland, was the major power in the world.

    Look at a map of Africa and the Middle East. The majority of the borders are straight lines, from when that part of the world was carved up by the European powers, led by Britain. But tribal and cultural boundaries don’t follow straight lines. This is how, for example, the Kurds instead of being one country were split up between three countries, and have ever since been struggling to become a single nation. The same pattern applies elsewhere.

    The Irish Republic wasn’t involved in the Gulf wars. The United Kingdom was, and we now have David Cameron trying to wash his hands of the whole issue, and sometimes sounding although he is reading a script prepared for him by the dreadful Nigel Farage.

    If Germany and Sweden can take large numbers of these poor people, why can’t Britain?

  7. I agree with much of what you say. Most poignantly, the town of Kobani, where the child’s family came from, is on the straight border between Syria and Turkey defined by a railway line.

    But ISIS is not a creation of 19th century powers. That’s a strictly 21st century artifact.

  8. Some things I don’t understand about this whole debacle

    1/ Were the little boys family not given asylum in Turkey, along with 2m other Syrians?
    2/ Hungary is in the EU, have the people in the railway station not been given safe refuge? Ditto the people in Calais.
    3/ Why risk your and your children’s lives leaving a place of safety.

  9. The family were seeking asylum in Canada, not Europe. Prevented by Turkey from having correct papers because they were Kurds from Kobani.

    Erdogan has been operating a covert support from ISIS for political reasons from the start. Kurds in Turkey are not safe.

    No idea why the Hungarians are stopping people reaching Germany.

  10. That’s my point re the Hungarian situation. They have been given asylum, are they now migrants? Ditto Calais. I’d like to work and live in, say Canada but I can’t for various reasons. You can’t pick and choose your country of refuge, it’s supposed to be the first country where you make landfall.

  11. Sorry. I was basing my question on what you said here:

    “Were the little boys family not given asylum in Turkey, along with 2m other Syrians?”

  12. From your article above

    “Turkey, population 78 million, has taken almost half of all fleeing Syrians — nearly two million desperate displaced people.”

  13. Yes. And you’re overlooking the fact that these people were Kurds from Kobani.

    You’re also overlooking Erdogan’s support for ISIS.

    What decent father and mother wouldn’t flee such circumstances?

  14. I’m not overlooking anything. I referenced your point regarding the number of Syrians given refuge in Turkey.

    Can you show me where you mentioned Erdogans support for ISIS in the article?

  15. Did you think it was a PhD thesis? It’s a blog post.

    You brought up the Dublin agreement having first talked about asylum in Turkey, which is entirely irrelevant.

    Besides, the Germans have quite properly torn up the rules on refugees and opened their borders, having recognised that in a catastrophe we can’t be overly officious. Who would have thought the Germans would be more flexible than the Irish when it comes to compassion?

  16. I spoke with a German friend of mine, Deiter some time ago on the subject of the 12 million odd Germans who were ‘ethnically clensed’ form modern day Poland, the Czeck Republic and Slovakia in the years after WWII.

    Deiter’s grandparents were expelled from Pomerania in late ’45 and his granfather murdered by a Polish mob. His grandmother along with his mother and five other siblings eventually made their way to Lüneburg. He indicated that aside from the shame of Nazism, the memory of these expulsions is seared into the nation’s consiousness.

    It is my belief that this is the main reason for Germany’s willingness to do more to help Syrian refugees than any other European country.

  17. The Hungarians never acknowledged what they did in the Nazi years. They never went through the experience of national shame that the Germans did.

  18. What about the Arab Spring Rising? How much damage did that unleash? Also I would take in women and children, not men. Sisterhood.Anyone remember when Hungarians came to Ireland as refugees back in the 50s. They hated it so much they went on hunger strike so they could be moved to Canada.

  19. Bock, Hungary lost 3 quarters of its territory after World War 1. The reason they sided with Germany during WW2 was to get some of this back, in order to reunite the millions of Hungarians (30% of them) that were scattered due to the treaty of Trianon.

    Can you compare what the Hungarians did in WW2 to the atrocities carried out on Jews and Roma by the Nazis?

    The Hungarians could argue that they themselves were victims from the years 1920 to 1991.

  20. Niall, I think the name of your friend is Dieter, not Deiter ;-)

    That aside, it’s true that there were many displaced people after WWII. My grandparents from different Eastern countries and their children (my parents) were refugees making their way under horrendous circumstances from East to West. This feeling of running away from something is still part of my genetics, the granddaughter who didn’t need to run anywhere. Still I run even further west and ended up in the Wesht of Ireland.
    I can only imagine how the children and grandchildren of these refugges feel and will feel forever.

    But, and that is historically a big but: Many of the Germans who had to flee at that time expelled decades or even centuries earlier a lot of local people from the land they occupied. I think the Irish would understand that concept…
    And there are still hostilities between displaced nations.

    It’s one of the reasons why borders are still very precarious all over Europe and maybe one of the reasons why many nations are very protective of their current borders. The Poles for example where pushed right, left and centre by the Prussians, the Russians, the Germans and whatnot.

    That doesn’t excuse the vile acts of the Hungarian PM Orban who seems to be a right, well, unsavoury character with no sense of history only for the upcoming election – playing to the right wing part of the population.

    That the German government takes in so many refugees (and please don’t call them migrants in this case) is commendable, but it’s a situational exception, not a permanent one. The immigration law still stands. Wouldn’t it be a “progressive making of politics” if countries would just change their strict immigration laws, not only suspend them for a short time?

    Thankfully there is a civic movement in Germany that makes things happen for the time being, i.e. not only doing the AirBnB for refugees or donating neccessary stuff, but giving the skills they have, like translators doing dictionaries for the most important phrases refugees and helpers need, solicitors offering their legal help, business people offering and giving jobs despite the laws that asylum seekers are not allowed to work (which is ridiculous considering that especially Germany needs a lot of specialised employees and a lot of the refugees are highly qualified, they are not all “peasants”, ye know).

    But don’t let us praise Germany for all that. There are plenty of the dull masses who are vaguely opposed against the “influx of foreigners” – as in Ireland. These are the people who couldn’t be bothered to educate themselves and find a job and then claim “they take our jobs”. You find dickheads everywhere.

    Going back to personal responsibility: I’m a bit helpless myself here in my lovely cottage in the Irish countryside. Would I take in a refugee?
    I’ve been thinking about my time in the student residence in Berlin with international students. Some became friends, others where just meh. If one of them, like that nice Syrian guy who was a friend of my then boyfriend would turn up, or if it would be our good friend Khatib from Iraq, yes, no question. Meaning, I need to trust people, living on my own.

    But what I would certainly do is to join a movement to help these people – if someone would contact me what to do, I’m with you. It’s easier to do something in a group, and being a foreigner myself it’s not easy to get into the tight knit Irish support system.

  21. “Going back to personal responsibility: I’m a bit helpless myself here in my lovely cottage in the Irish countryside”

    I feel for ya there sista

  22. Carry, you’re quite correct. It was drummed into me in German class the the ‘e’ always comes before the ‘i’ in the language. Anyway, when it comes to spelling, I quite dyslexic, it should have been obvious to you from the way I spelled the word ‘Czech’…

  23. Niall, I don’t think you’re dyslexic, you just do typos as everyone else. I tend to do letter twisters (and number twisters) when I’m typing quickly, no matter in which language.

    It was just the name Dieter (pronounced deetur), a very common name in Germany. If you spell it Deiter, it’s pronounced daytur, which sounds funny to German ears.

    I would’nt know how to pronounce your name for example, is it Neil or Ni-all? And don’t get me going about all those fancy Irish names with more letters and fadas than anyone can actually pronounce outside the Gaeltacht or Gaelscoils, if even there …. though it does look interesting and kind of pretty.

    And I wouldn’t know the correct spelling of Arabic names either, like that I mentioned before; is it Khatib, Chatib or what else? In Arabic it’s ??????
    (yes, I googled it …) , which doesn’t help really ;-)

    Sorry about the marginal linguistic comments.

    But it might be an idea:
    Maybe it just shows that refugees not only need all the neccessities (refuge, food, clothing etc.), but also people who help them through language difficulties (which even I still have with my reasonably good English as soon as I have to deal with buerocracy). Integration is much helped by communication, you can only connect with local people if you can actually talk to them – and if they feel understood.

    I don’t speak Arabic (apart from a few touristy words) and English is only my second language, so I might not be of much help.
    But aren’t there enough people here who taught English as a foreign language in far-flung countries? TEFLA, I think it’s called.

    Why not set up a group of TEFLA-volunteers who would provide their skills to help the refugees?

    I would help to organise it. Anyone with me?

  24. Ah well, the Arabic script didn’t translate to this comment, just a few question marks. Which is just as well, or can anyone read Arabic script? :-)

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