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Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act

'These pictures are beyond horrific. They are the wake-up call David Cameron needs,' Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron tells The Independent

Matt Dathan
Thursday 03 September 2015 08:44 BST
A young Syrian boy lies in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey
A young Syrian boy lies in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey (Reuters)

It is an image that shows beyond any doubt that Europe's leaders are failing to deal with the refugee crisis on their doorstep.

And now David Cameron has been told that the picture of a dead Syrian refugee boy washed up on a Turkish beach after he and his family tried to flee their war-torn country must act as a wake-up call to start accepting more than just a few hundred refugees from the country.

"Enough is enough," Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader told The Independent. "These pictures are beyond horrific. They are the wake-up call David Cameron needs," he added.

The Independent has taken the decision to publish the image, which some may find offensive, but the top of this article because among the often glib words about the "ongoing migrant crisis", it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees.

He was joined by Yvette Cooper, who said that when children's bodies are being washed up on beaches, the Government must know it is time to act.

Speaking to The Independent, she said: "When mothers are desperately trying to stop their babies from drowning when their boat has capsized, when people are being left to suffocate in the backs of lorries by evil gangs of traffickers and when children's bodies are being washed to shore, Britain needs to act."

"It is heartbreaking what is happening on our continent. We cannot keep turning our backs on this. We can - and must - do more."

Ms Cooper wants each town to offer refuge to 10 families, which she says would give 10,000 Syrian refugees sanctuary in the UK. "Let's not look back with shame at our inaction," Ms Cooper says in yet another appeal for Mr Cameron to act.

But the Prime Minister still refuses to change his Government's policy of taking in more than just a few hundred refugees.

"I don't think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees," he said today.

This was further proof, according to Mr Farron, of the UK Government's "disengaged, cold and irrelevant" response to the refugee crisis that has overflown onto Europe's doorstep.

“Britain has always been there for people in crisis," he said. "It is a badge of pride for our country. We must step up again, work with our neighbours and do what we can to help.”

The young boy in the image, who has yet to be named, is just one of nearly 3,000 refugees who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean this year and one of four million Syrians who have fled their country since the civil war broke out four years ago.

The boy, pictured below being carried by the official, 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.

Pressure has grown on Mr Cameron ever since he described migrants crossing the Mediterranean as a "swarm" earlier in the summer.

"I accept that, because you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it's got a growing economy, it's an incredible place to live," he said.

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman hit out at his choice of words, saying "he should remember he is talking about people and not insects" and described his use of "divisive" language as a "worrying turn".

“These photos are clearly shocking," the spokesman said. "This is why we continue to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria – including as the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £900m."

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