Early September 2015, the photo of a lifeless three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, who drowned off the coast of Turkey, once again reminded the international community about how we are failing to help migrants fleeing their countries in search of hope, opportunity, and safety. Aylan, his brother, and his parents were promised a motorboat for a trip from Turkey to Greece, from which the family would then seek refuge and start a new life in Canada. Instead, the smugglers offering the trip showed up with a dangerous 15-foot rubber raft bound to not make it to the coast of Greece. As expected, the high waves pushed the family out of the raft and the only survivor was Aylan’s father – the same man who was desperately trying to offer a better life for the family he no longer has.
The loss of Aylan and his family is an undebatable tragedy. And even worse, they are part of an even bigger tragedy. The Kurdi family is just one out of thousands of families from countries like Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, who are trying to escape the brutality of their countries’ governments and migrate towards Europe. Just like immigration tragedies are constantly happening in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, North Americans are aware of similar tragedies taking place in the infamous freight train La Bestia traveling through Mexico and/or the unknown waters of the Rio Grande, when desperate Central American immigrants bravely face the impending dangers of falling off the train cars, drowning, sexual assault, or even extortion, all in an effort to it to the United States or Canada.
While the European Union is known for being one of the world’s richest and most peaceful zones, the increasing wave of immigrants pursuing asylum petitions is beginning to test their openness; and the same goes for North America. According to The Economist, in 2015 roughly 270,000 asylum seekers arrived to Europe by sea. Now imagine how many out of those people will be turned away. Aylan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, was one of those immigration victims. Mr. Kurdi was forced to approach an illegal immigration route due to the continuous rejection of his applications to migrate Canada legally.
While some smaller and poorer countries like Greece, Turkey, and Tanzania are receiving a fair amount of immigrants, a lot of work still needs to get done. Just like the United States opened its doors in the 20th century to European immigrants, it is now time for European and North American governments to focus their undivided attention into drawing up a series of reforms that could for example aid immigrants and simultaneously contribute to local economies. By now, it is a historically proven fact that most asylum seekers are people who want to work. They do not want to takes risks or pursue in any illegal activity that may end up deporting them to their original countries.
Therefore, instead of passively waiting for stark reminders such as the tragic loss of an innocent three-year old immigrant, the international community should work harder to recognize that it is only in our best interest to acknowledge immigrants as valuable community assets who can certainly reduce the deterioration of markets and economies.