Three-year-old Syrian boy’s death has moved world

GENEVA – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on Friday said the photo of the 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi had stirred hearts around world.

Kurdi, his 5-year-old brother Galip and their mother were among 12 people who died after two boats capsized while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos recently.

“Europe is facing its biggest refugee influx in decades. More than 300,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year. Over 2,600 didn’t survive the dangerous crossing, including 3-year-old Aylan, whose photo has just stirred the hearts of the world’s public,” Guterres noted in a statement.

The European Union is preparing key emergency meetings to take decisions in its response to the present refugee and migration crisis and the situation requires a massive common effort that is not possible with the current fragmented approach.

“Europe cannot go on responding to this crisis with a piecemeal or incremental approach. No country can do it alone, and no country can refuse to do its part,” he said. For him, although the selfless generosity of private citizens and civil society organizations reaching out to welcome and help the new arrivals is truly inspiring, overall, Europe has failed to find an effective common response, and people have suffered as a result.

“This is a primarily refugee crisis, not only a migration phenomenon,” he said, adding that the vast majority of those arriving in Greece come from conflict zones like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan and are simply running for their lives.

“This is a defining moment for the European Union, and it now has no other choice but to mobilize full force around this crisis. The only way to solve this problem is for the Union and all member states to implement a common strategy, based on responsibility, solidarity and trust,” Guterres stressed.

According to the UN refugee chief, more effective international cooperation is required to crack down on smugglers, but none of these efforts will be effective without opening up more opportunities for people to come legally to Europe and find safety upon arrival.

“Thousands of refugee parents are risking the lives of their children on unsafe smuggling boats primarily because they have no other choice. European countries as well as governments in other regions must make some fundamental changes to allow for larger resettlement and humanitarian admission quotas, expanded visa and other ways to enter Europe legally,” he said.

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