September 4 2015, Glasgow pledges solidarity as refugees ask: How many children have to die?

The Evening Times, September 4 2015

Glasgow is rallying round crisis-hit refugees, with up to 10,000 people expected to attend a vigil in the city.

Hours after distressing images of little Aylan Kurdi surfaced online, thousands of people signed up to attend a George Square gathering to remember refugees who have lost their lives trying to flee war and persecution.

The body of three-year-old Aylan, from Syria, was found washed up on a Turkish beach on Wednesday.

He died with his five-year-old brother Galip and mother, Rehan. Their father Abdullah survived.

They were making a desperate attempt to flee to Canada, according to relatives.

The heartbreaking image of Aylan went viral and has prompted people across the UK to call for the Government to do more to address the EU refugee crisis.

Residents in the west of Scotland have also been doing whatever they can to help the situation, including providing aid and even offering shelter in their own homes.

Fuad Alakbarov, 26, who lives in Maryhill, is helping to organise a Glasgow gathering to urge people to stand in solidarity with refugees.

He believes up to 10,000 people will come together in the city on September 12 at 2.30pm.

Other gatherings will take place simultaneously across the country.

Fuad said the image of Aylan had acted as a trigger for action.

Last night nearly 5000 people had confirmed their attendance to the event on Facebook.

Glasgow Caledonian University graduate and human rights activist Fuad said the amount of interested people was a “pleasant surprise”.

He added: “I knew people in Glasgow cared about refugees but now there’s been a few triggers – the way Germany has taken in refugees has opened other peoples’ eyes.

“The image of the Syrian boy who didn’t make it and died in the sea was a trigger to open peoples’ eyes too.

“I think this combined with David Cameron’s coldness towards refugees has pulled everyone together.

“It’s had this explosion effect. A lot of people understand now.

“The image of the boy was a climax for people.”

Fuad said he believed organisers of the gathering were “just doing our duties”

He added: “I believe we are in a huge humanitarian crisis all over the world.

“I think it’s very important to make a vigil because all the innocent people attempted to make their lives better but they died.

“It’s our responsibility to be there and to help people in their hour of need because tomorrow we could be in the same position.”

Refugees in Glasgow say they hope the image will change peoples’ attitudes.

A 32-year-old Syrian refugee living in the west of the city said: “It is a shame on humanity. How many children should die before people wake up?

“And what next? People are dying in the sea, on land, by bombs every day.

“I hope this sympathy is not temporary.

“Now we need people to take action. To call on the Government to take more people.

“We are not migrants. We are refugees.”

More than 200,000 people have signed a nation-wide petition calling on the UK Government to accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugees.

Ahlam Souidi, of Uniting Nations in Scotland (UNIS) and Maryhill Integration Network, said: “Communities have been so touched after seeing the body of the baby. People are heartbroken.

“I think the message hit home to people in communities but it’s not getting through to the authorities.”

Ahlam said grassroots charities were doing all they could to support refugees.

She said: “Every family has a story to tell. Every day I hear about what families have seen. They have seen such awful things.

“These people need trauma support.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO

A UK-wide social media campaign has been launched where people are urged to tweet a picture of themselves with a sign saying #refugeeswelcome

The Scottish Refugee Council has asked anyone who wants to help to visit http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk where they can sign up to volunteer or organise a fundraising event.

City charity Positive Action in Housing has written to the First Minister to ask her to state that Scotland would be prepared to take in refugees to Scotland equating to 1% of its population – 50,000 refugees – under a UK wide relocation plan.

They have urged people to write to the Home Secretary Theresa May.

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