Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Must See Them as Human Beings

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Must See Them as Human Beings

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Kelly Reporter

SOMETIMES it takes a single event, an image, to change public attitudes and this appears to have happened with the death of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi.

He and his Syrian-Kurdish family were attempting to cross to the Greek island of Kos in an overcrowded dinghy when he and at least 11 others drowned, including his five-year-old brother Galip and their mother Rehan. Their eventual aim was safety in Canada from the brutal ISIS group now over running Syria.

Peter Sagar, former Norther East representative of Amnesty International, said: "It's terrible in a way that it's taken such a tragedy to get people to appreciate the enormity of the crisis and why Britain should act. Up until now, our Government's response to it has been shameful. In my view, Government policy on this issue has been determined by a small number of newspaper owners who don't live in this country. We are the sixth richest country in the world yet there are far more refugees taken in by much poorer countries than ours.

"The problem is the whole issue has been clouded by myths and lies. I've read, for example, that people in Britain believe we have about one quarter of the world's refugees living here. The figure is actually, I think, about 2.4%."

He added: "We've got to stop just thinking of them as migrants or asylum seekers. We have to think of them as being human beings."

The North East has a long tradition of providing asylum for those looking to escape prosecution and harm at home. The diverse range of ethnic groups in the region's community is testament to that.

And now Newcastle, alongside Gateshead and Sunderland, are part of the City of Sanctuary movement which aims to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. …

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