So David Cameron, is this dead Syrian child one of the 'swarm' of migrants you fear so much?

Those who have decided not to care will not be moved - but this should be moment when Britain finally finds its compassion

He looks asleep, far away in dreamland, as if he dropped off after a long day of play and fun, of tricks and naughtiness. His trainers are still on his feet. Did he pester mum and dad until they bought them? His red T-shirt and trousers have rolled up to reveal his tummy. I want to touch his soft, plump tummy, to hold him, wake him gently and dry him off.

But the boy is dead. He drowned in the foaming, blue sea, just off Bodrum in Turkey, a tourist destination for Europeans seeking sun and fun. The waves delivered him to the beach, gently it seems, so intact is the little body.

If this lifeless toddler was a European, the reaction across the continent would be shock and sorrow. But he is a Syrian, a pest, part of the “swarm” of refugees that David Cameron wants to keep out of Britain; a “cockroach”  to Katie Hopkins, the loutish commentator. 

Our Government can only talk in numbers, so too most of the media, including the BBC. Until yesterday, when Yvette Cooper finally acknowledged the Syrian refugee crisis, leading Labour figures were cowardly too, staying silent. Social psychopathy is the result. Thousands perish as they try to get into Europe; asylum-seeking women miscarry on the streets;  children are starving and traumatised; young men look trapped and emasculated. Those who have decided not to care will not be moved. (Millions do care and do what little they can, but this is a humanitarian disaster which requires a pan-European response).

Maybe this is the moment, the image which breaks through the emotional and political fortresses. Remember that little naked, burning girl in the Vietnam war running away from bomb attacks?  That single picture turned American public opinion against that terrible war. Or the first photographs of young Malala Yousafzai after she was shot on a school bus? Until then most Pakistanis were in denial about the Taliban in their country. After the shooting they had nowhere to hide.

Look at the picture of the washed up toddler if you can bear to. He is a little person, an innocent, who died before he could grow.  Think of the chances his parents took and why they felt they had no other choice. How frightened they must have been when they got on to the packed, unsafe boat. Did they drown too? They might have seen their child sink. Imagine that. If they survived, they must wish they hadn’t.  We don’t know their names. Maybe we never will. But this is our child now, whoever we are. Even those who support hardline anti-immigration policies, must, I think, feel pity and some urge to help.

Our PM and Home Secretary must speak out with some compassion now and take in more refugees. The boy on the beach will either become a symbol of European brutality or humanity. But he will never be erased from history and collective memory.  

 

 

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