Comment: ‘Is humanity too much for us to ask for?’

Syrian children play on a street in a residential suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus . Picture: Getty
Syrian children play on a street in a residential suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus . Picture: Getty
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it is hard to imagine how you would feel in the extraordinary circumstances facing the parents of 
Mohammed Karou.

Having fled your home country fearing for your life you arrive in a safe haven, your joy and relief at escaping a war zone mixed with devastating grief. You’re nine-year-old son did not make it out alive.

The agony is unbearable, thoughts of “why couldn’t it have been me instead of him?” impossible to keep out of your mind. You would trade places in the blink of an eye, give your own life, if there were any way to bring him back. You have your life, but not the life you had before, only a shadow of it.

Then, the miracle – he didn’t perish. He is alive after all, and safe, at least relatively speaking. But you can’t see him. You can’t pick up your boy, hug him, love him, care for him. You will be kept apart. Forced to abandon him to whatever aid comes his way from strangers. And all because you cannot in the circumstances provide any irrevocable proof that he is your boy. Would you be angry? Or just despairing? Would you even think you were in a civilised country?

The thing is the Karou family are far from alone. This week more than 200 religious leaders across the country called on Theresa May to soften Britain’s migration rules and offer a “fair and human” family reunification policy for refugees.

Under the present immigration rules, they said, a British doctor of Syrian origin could not bring her parents from a refugee camp in Lebanon – even though they were refugees and she could support and house them. A Syrian child who arrived alone in the UK could not bring his parents from a refugee camp in Jordan – even if the child were recognised a refugee and even though his parents were themselves refugees.

Given the UK has taken only around three per cent of refugees coming into Europe, is a little humanity too much to ask?