This week marks the one year anniversary of the death of Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey, and whose photograph sparked an outpouring of support around the world.
Now, the Norwegian Refugee Council, a human rights group based in Europe, is using the anniversary of the iconic photo to call on European leaders to “stop the loss of lives” on their doorstep.
“One year after the death of Aylan Kurdi the hemorrhage of human lives on the doorstep to Europe has worsened,” Jan Egeland, head of the NRC. “European leaders promised action and countries promised to fulfil their moral responsibilities. But instead of building bridges they have built walls, and instead of taking their share of responsibility, they have participated in a race to a bottom.”
According to the International Organization for Migration, European countries combined took in more than 1,000,000 refugees during 2015, but still, Egeland said this isn’t good enough and wants to see more refugees settled in Europe.
“European civilization, or lack thereof, is defined by how we receive persecuted human beings seeking our protection,” he said.
The photo of the toddler, shown lying face down on the Turkish shoreline as the waves rolled in and out, led to a massive spike in donations to charities and NGOs that help refugees and asylum seekers obtain food, clothing and other goods.
Save the Children, a U.K.-based child advocacy group reported a 70 percent increase in donations in the 24 hours after the picture was published, while the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which operates independent rescue boats in the Mediterranean, saw 15 times as much money donated in the 24 hours after the photo was published than any other 24-hour time period in the past.
Since Kurdi’s death, though, more than 4,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean – including hundreds of children – which Egeland called unacceptable.
“European leaders must do more to prevent new tragedies,” he said.