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Refugee crisis: A test of our humanity

Syrian refugees walk with their children through the streets of Catania, Italy, to find a place to sleep for the night.
Syrian refugees walk with their children through the streets of Catania, Italy, to find a place to sleep for the night.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve been shocked by the media coverage over the last few days – especially the heart-breaking picture of the little Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, drowned off the coast of Turkey. His tragic death has captured the hearts of millions of people across the world.

Alan’s tragic story speaks to a wider truth.

So far in 2015, 350,000 people have made the life-threatening journey across the Mediterranean Sea – thousands have lost their lives, many of them children.

For many of those who reach Europe, the journey doesn’t end there. They’re forced to live in dirty and unsafe conditions.

This crisis is a test of our humanity. We must do more to stop it happening.

Britain deserves credit for its generous aid to millions of Syrians in camps across the Middle East and for deploying the Royal Navy to rescue thousands in the Mediterranean.

The Prime Minister’s announcement today that the UK will take thousands of Syrian refugees through the official resettlement scheme is an important first step.

With more than 4 million refugees living in appalling conditions in countries neighbouring Syria, the UK government should take at least 10,000.

Britain should also be offering to rehome 3,000 of the unaccompanied children who have already come to Europe on their own from across the Middle East and Africa, without their mums and dads.

Through the resettlement scheme some of the most vulnerable Syrian families will be given the chance of a better life in the UK, meaning they don’t have to risk their lives on treacherous sea crossings.

But even if we play our part in resettling thousands of Syrian refugees, unless EU leaders take comprehensive action the reality is that desperate people will continue to risk their lives to come to Europe – and hundreds of thousands of people are already here.

The next few weeks will be critical in the run-up to an important meeting on 14 September where EU ministers must agree a plan to help refugee families.

We need them to agree to a five point plan including greater aid to refugees in the Middle East region, maintaining search and rescue operations at sea, setting up a proper system of safe routes to Europe and reception centres for refugees and then fair burden sharing for resettling refugees.

At Save the Children, we have launched an emergency ‘Child Refugee Crisis’ appeal to support our work on the ground both at the source of these conflicts and across Europe.

We must no longer stand by and let children suffer.

This is a moment of decision for our nation and our continent about who we want to be and how we treat those in need.

Our message is clear: refugees are welcome here.

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