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Mediterranean tragedy: can we create hope from such despair?

News3 September 2015Sadhbh Goodhue

In the face of harrowing events on the Mediterranean, it’s hard to imagine what we can do as individuals to help. But by challenging apathy, speaking out and getting active, we can all play our part in effecting change.

Harrowing events

This extremely harrowing picture – reported all over the world today – was taken yesterday on a beach in Turkey. A boat carrying migrants – including this Syrian three year old – capsized trying to reach the island of Kos in Greece, killing many on board, including this little boy, his brother and mother.

It is a story that has moved and upset many of us today, including myself.

I have a child around the same age as this boy. I know legs like these. I know what it feels like to wrestle shoes onto feet like those, feet that would be wriggling and trying to get away from you before you’d finished. I know what his little face would have felt like to his mother, as her hug turned into a tickle, an arching back and squeals of laughter. I know what his little body must have felt like in the arms of this Turkish police man – a dead weight like the sleeping child I have carried many times. I know the love this little boy’s mother and father undoubtedly felt for their son. And I know that this picture is their nightmare beyond nightmares – the greatest horror any parent could imagine.

As Allison Morris says in her tweet: “That’s not a migrant – that’s someone’s wee baby boy”.


The desperation that leads migrants to risk their lives must be so great. Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer Warshan Shire expresses it clearly:

…you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land …and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore.

Warshan Shire - Home

Massive crisis

Unfortunately this poor child’s story is far from unique. Over 300,000 people have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean this year, many of whom are Syrians attempting to escape the civil war that has turned their country upside down.

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 2,600 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this year, trying to reach Greece or Italy.In the face of this suffering is there anything we can do, as individuals, to help?

Becoming active

Many issues seem so large and complex that it is hard to imagine how one person could make any sort of meaningful impact. But just as there are a lot of big problems or issues in the world, there are also people who care about these problems and issues.

Individuals and groups take action each day worldwide – in their day-to-day lives, making choices, making changes, small and large – stacking up small actions that can amount to big change. In the face of the suffering you see, lift your voice in support of what you believe in – and in support of change.

  1. Speak out. Don’t stay silent on the issues you care about. Challenge apathy – let others know your thoughts and ideas and help make this a public agenda. Talk with family, friends, colleagues, learn the basics and share the arguments.
  2. Share – your resources, time and skills. Support Concern and other organisations locally and nationally that are lobbying on the issues you care about. Most of us can afford to be far more generous than we often are with our time, energy and money.
  3. Be active – locally and nationally. Volunteer some of your time weekly or monthly. There are many organisations focused on immigration, human rights, and humanitarian issues who could benefit from your skills (not just your time!). Think about what you can offer and what issues concern you.
  4. Be political. Concern already is – we argue that attitudes, behaviours and policies need to change and society needs to be challenged to make the changes that will benefit the poor and the hungry; governments, companies, organisations need to be challenged to ‘do the right thing’ ethically and environmentally; we need to build the movement that insists poverty and hunger are not inevitable; not only can they be tackled, they can be eliminated…now.

Donate now

We are working to provide emergency hygiene kits to displaced Syrians and we need your support.

People gather with jerrycans and other containers to collect water from a tanker cistern in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip

Gaza Emergency Appeal

  • 1.9 million people displaced

  • 2.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance

  • People need nutrition support, medical assistance, and water, sanitation and hygiene services

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