Destitute people have fled conflict in the Middle East for a couple of years now. But it was only after the heartbreaking images of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body lying on a beach went viral, that the world truly realized the grim reality of the refugee crisis brewing in Europe.
The 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up dead on a shore as his family tried to get to Turkey on a migrant boat.
While Aylan’s photos prompted some countries like Germany and Canada to respond to the humanitarian emergency, many others — including 31 U.S. states — have closed their doors on refugees.
Serving as a wake-up knock on those closed doors, Aylan’s father, Abdullah, has pleaded with the world to help people seeking refuge from death and destruction plaguing their homelands.
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"My message is I'd like the whole world to open its doors to Syrians. If a person shuts a door in someone's face, this is very difficult. When a door is opened they no longer feel humiliated,” says Abdullah in a message that will be aired on Christmas Day on Channel 4 in Britain.
“At this time of year I would like to ask you all to think about the pain of fathers, mothers and children who are seeking peace and security. We ask just for a little bit of sympathy from you.”
More than 250,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the civil war four years ago while more than 4 million have fled. This year alone, at least 500,000 Syrian refugees tried to reach Europe and North America.
Around 1.4 million more are expected to cross the Mediterranean this year, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Not all of them will be able to make it though.