There has been extensive media coverage of Peter Bucklitsch, a UKIP member, over his comments surrounding the death of a drowned Syrian child Aylan Kurdi. For anyone who is standing or has recently stood for elected office it is essential to use moderate language when handling delicate issues.
Bucklitsch failed to do that and that was his error. Not a crime, an error. Raheem Kassam has already covered this so I am going to focus on something else, something the left in Britain has found very difficult to deal with over many decades: child abuse and the complexities around people trafficking.
When people think of child abuse they may think of drunken fathers beating their children, mentally unstable mothers swearing at them or a man (it’s usually a man) sexually abusing his niece.
Neglect is a form of child abuse too and it can have lethal results. Putting a child’s life in jeopardy in the full knowledge he may drown is gross negligence. Abdullah, Aylan’s father, would have been well aware from Turkish media of the dangers. He had of course been there for three years.
I am not saying this out of insensitivity or feeling some need to defend the social media output of some little league kipper. I am saying this because I feel people in this country are not analysing the brutal reality of the effects of people trafficking and its risks. You see, Abdullah was a people trafficker. He was trafficking his own children, not escaping a warzone or a tyranny.
In 2008, a report from the Vienna Forum to fight Human Trafficking, a UN initiative, highlighted how family members and the wider community are knowingly involving themselves in trafficking. Trafficking is illegal and it is funded illegally, often through incurring very large debts and the result is a money spinner for criminals who place a very high premium on getting their clients to a country where they can recoup their fees.
Nothing creates a market quite like demand and for as long as it remains profitable for criminals to indenture families with debt they can hope to recoup then this trafficking will continue.
This was not the trafficking of a vulnerable adult from an extremely dangerous country. Aylan was trafficked from a safe country, a UN founder member and a founding member of NATO, in the hope of arriving in a country where his parents’ debts could be more easily repaid. We have to accept this for what it is if we are going to understand the drivers of this trade in misery and shut it down.
This tragedy is also one for journalism. A very predictable Guardian article that reports how this is a Syrian refugee crisis even reveals Abdullah was in Turkey for three years and had been refused an asylum request from Canada though he had family there. It also suggests he is planning to return to Syria!
There is a complete denial about the causes and consequences of this case, instead it is churned into the narrative that is this somehow the result of a failing asylum process. It just isn’t.
I doubt anyone does not have sympathy for the deaths of these children. It is a tragedy and all the more because it need not have happened. It is more a tragedy because the media is choosing not report this as the real face of human trafficking… parents helping to traffic their children, the wider community in which they live being aware of the routes, the docks, the boats used to traffic people from safe countries through dangerous seas… and doing nothing about them.
Worst of all, and this will bite, those aid workers and professionals including doctors who assist migrants in safe countries who have not applied for asylum there. These people, all of them, are parts of the human trafficking chain. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban has made more than a few tasteless comments in this crisis but in refusing to let migrants through Hungary he should be praised for trying to break this chain of misery. Sadly it is not within his gift to prevent the chain being forged in the first place.
There are many reasons to be angry at the death of Aylan Kurdi. Transferring that anger into an easy target like Bucklitsch isn’t going to help anyone. Stopping the boats that ferry misery into Europe would be a surer bet, and making sure that policy is backed up by robust funding and provision of services closer to where these migrants originated. Getting real over the drivers of human trafficking and those involved will save lives and this is what our focus should be.
Oh yes, and maybe doing something about those jihadi nutcases that have been driving so much of this in the first place.