Opening our arms to refugees
By Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
My heart burst when I saw the picture of the drowned body of 3 year old Alan Kurdi in his red shirt and blue pants, face downward in the sand on a Turkish beach. I won’t be able to forget that picture, ever.
Today, I’m filled with a different kind of emotion. It’s joy, renewed hope, and a sense of pride as I watch Canadians open their arms to welcome refugees from Syria. Thank you. You played a part in turning human tragedy to joy.
Since the start of the brutal civil war in Syria, Amnesty International has been sounding the alarm bell about the rapidly mounting Syrian refugee crisis, and the need for Canada to respond.
With your help, Amnesty International sent researchers into the heart of the trouble spots in Syria, to document the gravity of the crisis, to call on neighbouring countries to protect fleeing refugees, and to move the world to bring resources, attention and understanding to help ease the frightening vulnerability of refugees.
And in recent weeks there has been such important progress in Canada. We have – as a nation and as individuals – generously and spontaneously opened our arms in a warm and heartfelt “welcome”. We have enthusiastically shared our time, money, commitment, and even our homes. We have shown that we are open to being changed and enriched by those who join our communities.
This is work that needs our attention. Amnesty International needs to the support of human rights supporters to urge governments to respond and uphold laws that help prevent the next crisis
I don’t know the name of the child sleeping in his mother’s arms in this picture. It’s a photo of refugees from last week’s Amnesty news release about the 12,000 refugees who are stranded in “no man’s land” on the border of Jordan and Syria, unable to turn back but unable to move forward. But I want this boy and his family to be safe! I stood in refugee camps in South Sudan earlier this year, and witnessed firsthand the desperate protection needs of refugees. I could feel how painful it is for a parent not to be able to protect their children, or for loved ones to be fearful about the fate of the people left behind. This vulnerability and fear robs you of your dignity.
The global refugee crisis has forced us at Amnesty International to dig a little deeper and find new resources to ensure we respond where the need is greatest, and to have the capacity to investigate human rights violations wherever they occur. The Syrian refugee crisis is alarming by its sheer magnitude – 4 million who fled the country – the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. That does not even take account of the more than 8 million Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes but remain internally displaced in Syria.
It took the loss of little Alan Kurdi to move the world to respond. But it is still nowhere near adequate. While many countries have responded generously, others have turned their backs on fleeing refugees, and others struggle to cope. There is such a pressing need for a generous, coordinated global response to the Syrian refugee crisis, that will both protect refugees and enrich communities around the world.
As the Syrian refugee crisis continues to unfold, we are witnessing the immense cost of not holding governments like Syria to account for the atrocities committed against their own citizens, of ignoring the principles of human rights protection.
Amnesty International’s respected, independent voice in the defence human rights needs to be louder. Please make a financial contribution today using our secure online donation form, or call us at 1-800-AMNESTY (1-800-266-3789) to make your gift.
Thank you for your compassion and your commitment to human rights.
Amnesty International Canada
P.S. Canadians are demonstrating the best of humanity as they raise funds to sponsor individual refugee families and welcome them into their communities. With your support to Amnesty International’s work to protect refugees, you’ll honour those who are finding a home in Canada and help bring hope and dignity to other refugees who have yet to find safety. Thank you!
- Take action by signing our most recent eaction to Canadian officials
- Learn more about our ongoing work on refugees.