Last week the world was shocked and horrified by the image of drowned Syrian refugee child Aylan Kurdi, whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach after his family tried to flee to Greece. The image sparked solidarity demonstrations and worldwide calls for governments to finally do something about the refugee crisis that has been simmering on Europe’s doorstep for the past four years.
Malala Yousafzai – who spent her 18th birthday in July opening a school for Syrian refugee girls – has added her voice to the chorus via an op-ed in Time. And she has some strong words for governments who aren’t pulling their weight.
The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, education advocate and terrorism survivor said she has prayed daily since seeing the picture of Aylan that his death would not be in vain – but describes the world’s response so far as “pitiful”.
“I have been asking myself: Is this the moment that our politicians will finally see that the children of Syria are the same as any other children? Will they finally acknowledge that people fleeing conflict have the right to be protected?”
Yousafzai commended the actions of Germany, which has suspended the EU agreement that means refugees are deported to the country of first entry.
Although this change only applies to Syrian refugees, the German finance minister has stated that Germany could take up to 500,000 refugees per year “for several years”. But Germany won’t do it alone.
Calling on more countries to follow Germany’s lead, Yousafzai said that while images of people welcoming refugees are moving, she’s also been distressed at the failure of most world leaders to “meet this moral challenge”.
With only 31% of the UN’s response plan funded this year, “the world’s response has been pitiful,” she wrote.
“Food rations for refugees are being cut because nations will not contribute their fair share to help. Entire refugee camps have only one or two schools for children.
“If we say we care, we must not just use words, but take action.”