Few would forget Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose native country's popular revolt against dictatorship veered off to become civil war and extermination. Aylan's family had set out for safety in Europe, but could not complete the hazardous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea; their boat capsized and three-year old Aylan's body got washed ashore on a beach in Turkey. The incident of September 2015 was not an isolated one. When tens of thousands of people of North Africa and West Asia are thrown into deep tragedy by war, occupation, civil strife and poverty, cross the sea, this is a daily happening. But the little physique and the heart-rending face of Aylan filled the images in the media, the flow of refugees to Europe turned into a major debate. Contrary to the declared policy of the European Union (EU), many countries showed reluctance to receive refugees and invited severe reproach. A perception crystallised that if Europe accepts refugees with an open mind, such refugee boat tragedies could be averted. It was following this that countries including and chiefly, Germany started fixing quota by themselves and started making asylums for refugees, and with good result: safe migration became possible to a great extent without relying on the human smuggling rackets and mafia which had operated as middlemen for refugees. And with that, the number of Mediterranean boat disasters also came down.
On the other hand, these refugee-friendly actions too started being questioned, mostly inspired by the far-right factions of Europe who could be called neo-Nazis. That fringe, whose ideology consisted of racism and Islamophobia, came to acquire fairly strong political influence in several European nations. And they were the exponents of 'Brexit' which succeeded in getting Britain out of the EU. As a result of their anti-refugee campaign, Britain imposed open ban on refugees. Migrants who had fled for life from war-torn and occupied lands, came to be labelled usually as 'infiltrators' and 'Muslim extremists'. In the parliamentary election of countries like Germany, France, Netherlands and Sweden, they made major gains, and consequently even European leaders sympathetic to refugees have of late been forced to make a change of mind. With that the famed 'refugee-friendly' approach of Europe got sullied. And it is the ramifications of this that are emerging through fresh stories of migrant tragedies. In the most recent case a few days ago, a boat carrying refugees from France to Britain capsized, and 27 people died. This is a natural fallout of Europe closing its doors against refugees under the pressure of the extreme right champions. When the EU turned its back to them, human trafficking gangs have started raising their head again, and are busy setting out in the seas in boats overpacked with people with no safety in chilling winter.
Over the last seven years, about 20,000 refugees have had such watery grave, as per the estimate of International Organisaton for Migration (IOM). Some other international agencies estimate several times this figure. That apart, since 2016 the death rate had a significant fall. If in 2016, close to 6,000 people lost their lives, four years thence it fell even below 1,500. But come 2021, the situation has changed. In the first six months alone, nearly 2,000 peope have died. If countries including Britain continue with their present stance, 'refugee boats' will again drown in the Mediterranean Sea and English Channel. There is only one way out in this situation: nothing else than providing refuees safe passage to Europe. Unfortunately, countries including Britain - which had raised its voice for a refugee convention in the United Nations in 1951 – have succumbed to the hate politics of racism in the new circumstances. Streets of Britain have come to such a pass that raising voice for migrants will result in guns aiming at them. It was in a similar background that in 2016 during the Brexit debate, Labour Party MP Jo Cox was shot to death. Across Europe, the political situation is such that most leaders who sympathised with the refugees did suffer setbacks in the following election. When neo-Nazis steer European politics in this direction, their parliaments will see the rebirth of Hitler's ghosts. And that will be followed by the waves of intolerance of the other and racism in the Mediterranean and Atlantic – and then Aylan Kurdis are destined to die.