Charity warns of winter crisis after dozens of refugee children die trying to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece.
The father of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose photo sparked a worldwide outcry about the fate of refugees travelling to Europe, has appealed for the world to open its doors to those fleeing the war in Syria.
In a preview of UK broadcaster Channel 4’s Christmas message, intended to provide an alternative to the Queen’s annual message, Abdullah Kurdi says: “My message is I’d like the whole world to open its doors to Syrians”.
Kurdi’s three-year-old son Alan, five-year-old son Galip and wife Rehan died in September as they attempted to make the perilous crossing between Turkey and the Greek island of Kos.
Heart-rending photographs of Alan’s body washed up on a Turkish beach put a human face on the dangers faced by hundreds of thousands of desperate people who risk their lives to seek a new life in Europe.
“If a person shuts a door in someone’s face, this is very difficult. When a door is opened they no longer feel humiliated,” Abdullah Kurdi said in his Christmas message.
“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.
“I wish you a very happy new year. Hopefully next year the war will end in Syria and peace will reign all over the world.”
The UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration announced on Tuesday that the number of “refugees and migrants” arriving by land and sea to the European Union passed the one million mark this year.
The new figures listed the arrivals in six European countries since January 1, with the vast majority of people – 821,008 – landing in Greece.
Half of those arriving to Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus by December 21 were Syrians fleeing war, another 20 percent were Afghans, and seven percent were Iraqis.
Some 3,600 died or went missing, including 422 deaths at sea, the two agencies added on Tuesday.
Kurdi’s full message will be aired on Christmas Day.