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    The photo that shook Europe

    September 06, 2015

    The story of three-year Aylan Kordin has stirred the conscience of Europe. The photograph of the drowned child has launched an outpouring on social media of public support for the thousands of refugees who are in search of countries and communities that will accept them. Under the hash tag #refugeeswelcome, politicians and campaigners; ordinary individuals and celebrities; charities and local councils; even football teams have thrown their weight behind the demand that their governments adopt a humane response to the crisis that is playing out across the continent. It has set off a wave of voluntarism with people taking the leadership in providing relief at refugee camps through collection and distribution drives, others organizing protests and vigils, and several individuals and families offering to put up refugee families.

    The petition by Kylie Whyte on a government homepage calling for the UK to take in more asylum seekers doubled its numbers in the last 24-hours, well surpassing the minimum of 100,000 needed for the issue to be discussed in Parliament. Another popular campaign that sprung up online was the group #RefugeesWelcomeEFL which called for the clubs of the English Premier League to unfurl banners at football games across the country on September 12.

     

    Newspapers and websites are offering suggestions on how concerned people can help. The Guardian published a list of organisations to donate to that included the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Aylan Kurdi fund and Refugee Council. Refugees Welcome is a scheme described as an “Airbnb for refugees”, and a professional football club had fielded a third team consisting entirely of refugees.

     

    The Migrant and Refugees Communities Forum made a Facebook appeal to join Convoy Budapest Vienna - Rail replacement Operation for Refugees, and several thousand have already signed up as volunteers. The convoy of buses and cars will start on Sunday from Vienna to bring as many refugees as possible from Budapest in defiance of the Hungarian government’s denial of safe travel by train to refugees.

     

    Though positive governmental responses lag far behind the popular ones, it is unlikely that elected governments can remain unaffected by the explosion of popular goodwill.

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