By Natasha Lennard
July 07, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - In September 2015, images circulated of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi’s tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach; that week, donations to refugee aid charities soared. The Syrian toddler’s death, which occurred during the perilous journey taken by many refugees trying to reach Europe, was one of 3,770 migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean that year but one of the only ones to be seen by a global audience.
In response, people opened their wallets. The Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station received a record 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in one day, compared to a usual 10,000 euros at the time. That week, donations to the Swedish Red Cross were 55 times greater than usual.
Within a few weeks, however, donations returned to their previous levels.
Over the last week, a photograph of Salvadoran father Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, lifeless and facedown in the Rio Grande shallows, has caused similar public dismay in the U.S. and beyond. The father and child drowned attempting to cross from Mexico to Texas. Dozens have died this year alone trying to cross the Rio Grande, where water levels rage the highest in 20 years due to unprecedented snowmelt runoff. The deserts that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border create another dangerous landscape for migrants: Just a few days prior to the Martínezes’ deaths, the bodies of a young woman, a toddler, and two infants were discovered in the Texas desert; they are believed to have died from heat exposure.
At the time of Alan Kurdi’s death, the words of British-Somali poet Warsan Shire became a rallying cry in support of the million-plus migrants risking their lives to seek safety in Europe:
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
The poem’s point, borne out again and again by the millions of displaced people who continue to undertake harrowing, deadly journeys to seek safer lives, is that deterrence efforts make little sense in the face of desperation. The same lines have been reposted a number of times on social media since the photo of Martínez and his daughter went viral, and in the wake of chilling reports from the U.S. border’s concentration camps, where children and infants, separated from their parents, are among the tortured.
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