Alan, his mum and his five-year-old brother had drowned as they attempted to cross from Turkey to Kos in a small inflatable boat, having fled the violence of ISIL and Assad’s civil war.
The Conservatives voted against providing a safe haven for children who’ve been forced to flee their homes and separated from their families.
When that photo appeared on front pages the next day, politicians around the world could no longer ignore the awful human tragedies happening every day as refugees like Alan and his family make perilous attempts to cross the Mediterranean in search of sanctuary.
Here in the UK, the Conservative Government was forced into action at last. The Prime Minister promised to resettle 20,000 refugees from Syria – a commitment that the Government will finally fulfil this year. But still, the Conservatives resisted calls from the Liberal Democrats and others to offer sanctuary to refugees already on the move across Europe – those like Alan Kurdi’s family.
They even voted against the Dubs amendment, which would have committed the UK to take 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. That’s right. They voted against providing a safe haven for children who’ve been forced to flee their homes and separated from their families.
Thankfully, we defeated the Government and forced them to implement the Dubs scheme, providing a route for the children in Calais camps to come to the UK safely.
But the Conservatives closed that scheme in July, after resettling just 480 child refugees. Without safe routes, desperate people – including children – will continue to take unsafe ones: including attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the Channel in small boats.
We must do all we can to protect vulnerable refugees and safe lives
And we will continue to see more tragedies like the death of Alan Kurdi. Just a fortnight ago, the body of a young Sudanese man, Abdulfatah Hamdallah, was found on a beach near Calais.
He had drowned while trying to cross the Channel in a little rubber dinghy with his 16-year-old friend.
We must do all we can to protect vulnerable refugees and safe lives. The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, and we cannot let this Conservative Government turn its back on them now.
That’s why the Liberal Democrats are fighting to secure safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK.
That must include a new long-term commitment to resettle refugees directly from conflict areas like Syria and the surrounding region. And the Government must reopen the Dubs scheme, with a commitment to resettle 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from elsewhere in Europe over the next ten years.
Five years ago, we responded to that photo of Alan Kurdi with compassion and urgency. Five years on, both those impulses are needed as much as ever. We cannot let them fade now.