Chicago Police ‘disappeared’ over 7,000 people to secret interrogation facility

Nearly 6,000 of those secretly imprisoned and interrogated at secret interrogation facility were black

Chicago police sent a total of 7,185 people to Homan Square between 2004 and 2015. (Photo: Michael Kappel/flickr/cc)

Chicago police sent a total of 7,185 people to Homan Square between 2004 and 2015. (Photo: Michael Kappel/flickr/cc)

by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams

Police in Chicago kidnapped and imprisoned more than 7,000 people between 2004 and 2015 at the secret interrogation warehouse now known publicly as Homan Square, according to new reporting by the Guardian.

Nearly 6,000 of the disappeared were black, which is proportionately more than double the city’s black population and 82.2 percent of the 7,185 total individuals sent to the facility. An additional 11.8 percent were Hispanic and 5.5 percent were white.

Only 68 people—less than one percent—held at the ‘domestic black site’ were allowed access to lawyers or to tell others where they were. As Common Dreams previously reported, the imprisonments and interrogations at Homan Square happened off the books, without detainees’ names being entered into official law enforcement databases, which would have made them easier to find.

“The reality is, no one knows where that person is at Homan Square,” University of Chicago Law School professor Craig Futterman said. “They’re disappeared at that point.”

The latest disclosures in the Guardian‘s series on the site, the result of an ongoing transparency lawsuit and investigation, reveal that police officers kept detainees at Homan Square for hours and even days and pressured them to become informants as part of the department’s anti-gang operations.

Spencer Ackerman reports:

The police portrayals contrast sharply with those of Homan Square detainees and their lawyers, who insist that “if this could happen to someone, it could happen to anyone”. A 30-year-old man named Jose, for example, was one of the few detainees with an attorney present when he surrendered to police. He said officers at the warehouse questioned him even after his lawyer specifically told them he would not speak.

“The Fillmore and Homan boys,” Jose said, referring to police and the facility’s cross streets, “don’t play by the rules.”

“Not much shakes me in this business—baby murder, sex assault, I’ve done it all,” one attorney, David Gaeger, told the Guardian. “That place was and is scary. It’s a scary place. There’s nothing about it that resembles a police station. It comes from a Bond movie or something.” Gaeger’s client was sent to Homan Square in 2011 for a marijuana arrest.

In fact, the majority of those sent to the facility were arrested for drug charges, rather than violent crime.

Many others were never even charged.

Meanwhile, police accounts have varied widely from those of the disappeared. In many cases, officers stated that detainees were given access to attorneys when they were not, or the visits proved too short to be useful. One woman, identified as Chevoughn, said she was kept for eight to ten hours at Homan Square over theft allegations, where she was questioned in a “cage” and denied access to a lawyer until she went to central booking after her kidnapping.

Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin and U.S. Representative Danny Davis in March demanded that the Department of Justice investigate the activities that took place at Homan Square.

Arab coalition accused of war crimes in Yemen

Amnesty International seeks halt to arms transfers to coalition members, citing evidence of “unlawful air strikes”.

The Houthi stronghold of Saada has been hit hard during the conflict [File: Reuters]

The Houthi stronghold of Saada has been hit hard during the conflict [File: Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

Amnesty International has accused the Arab coalition fighting in Yemen of carrying out unlawful air strikes, some of which amount to war crimes.

The UK-based rights group on Wednesday called for the suspension of transfers of certain arms to members of the coalition, which launched an air campaign against Houthi rebels in March.

Amnesty said in a report that it had examined 13 deadly air strikes by the coalition, assembled by Saudi Arabia, that had killed about 100 civilians, including 59 children.

“This report uncovers yet more evidence of unlawful air strikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes. It demonstrates in harrowing detail how crucial it is to stop arms being used to commit serious violations of this kind,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera, who headed the group’s fact-finding mission to Yemen.

“The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorise are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates are participating in the coalition.

Cluster bombs

Amnesty said its researchers had found remnants of two types of internationally banned cluster bombs as it investigated attacks on Saada, a Houthi stronghold in northeastern Yemen.

Another rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, in August accused Saudi forces of using cluster bombs in Yemen.

The claim was then denied by a spokesman for the coalition.

Amnesty also said cases had been documented of civilians who were not directly participating in hostilities but were killed or injured while asleep or carrying out their daily activities.

It said that in at least four of the air strikes investigated, “Homes attacked were struck more than once, suggesting that they had been the intended targets despite no evidence they were being used for military purposes.”

Another Amnesty report, published in August, condemned both sides in the conflict over the killing of civilians.

Yemen’s war pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces fighting on the side of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Arab coalition is seeking to reinstate Hadi and his government.

More than 2,300 civilians have been killed in the conflict since March, the UN Human Rights office said late September.

Pro-Houthi forces have been accused of indiscriminately shelling populated areas in violation of the laws of war, killing civilians.

After 13 Years without charge, Shaker Aamer to be freed from Guantanamo

‘He has been tortured and abused for more than a decade, and what he wants most is to be left alone with his family to start rebuilding his life.’

Shaker Aamer has been held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial since 2002. (Photo: File)

Shaker Aamer has been held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial since 2002. (Photo: File)

by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams

Shaker Aamer, the last remaining UK prisoner in Guantánamo Bay prison, will be released and allowed to return home, a British government spokesperson announced Friday.

Aamer, 46, a Saudi citizen and UK resident, has been held at the U.S. military base in Cuba for 13 years without charge and has twice been cleared to go home. A report last month revealed that the Pentagon had been actively blocking his release, despite participating in one of the federal reviews that found he posed no threat to national security and could be returned home.

Reprieve attorney Clive Stafford Smith, who represents Aamer, said the most likely date for Aamer’s return is October 25, absent “robust intervention” by the UK government.

“This is great news, albeit about 13 years too late,” Smith said. “The UK must demand of President [Barack] Obama that he should be on a plane tomorrow, so that Shaker’s family do not have to endure more of the agony of waiting, uncertain every time a phone rings.”

“British politicians may bombasticate about our ‘robust and effective systems to deal with suspected terrorists’ but Shaker is not and never has been a terrorist, and has been cleared by the Americans themselves for 8 years,” Smith continued. “I hope the authorities will understand that he has been tortured and abused for more than a decade, and what he wants most is to be left alone with his family to start rebuilding his life.”

According to his lawyers, Aamer was abducted by bounty hunters in Afghanistan in 2001 and handed over to U.S. forces, who transferred him to Guantánamo Bay two months later. While there, he organized and participated in hunger strikes and other actions to draw attention to torture and mistreatment of detainees, including himself.

Amnesty International USA executive director Steven W. Hawkins said Friday that Aamer’s case is “a symbol of Guantánamo’s utter failure.”

“This is a man who was held without trial or charge for more than 13 years, alleges he was tortured repeatedly, was cleared for transfer twice, and the UK government has asked that he be transferred back to the United Kingdom, yet he still languished in detention from February 2002 until today,” Hawkins said.

Macedonia mulls border fence to stop flow of refugees

UNICEF says millions more in Syria could become refugees and head to Europe if there is no end to the war.


by Al Jazeera

Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki has said that his country might follow Hungary’s example and build a border fence to stem the influx of refugees trekking through the Balkans to reach Western Europe.

The news comes as foreign ministers from four Central European nations are meeting in Prague on Friday, amid a growing rift over the refugee crisis.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia reject quotas proposed by the EU Commission, which proposed 120,000 additional asylum seekers per year to be shared out between 28 member states.

“We too will need some kind of physical defence to reduce illegal border crossing… Either soldiers or a fence or a combination of the two,” Poposki was quoted as saying in an interview with Hungarian business weekly Figyelo on Thursday.

He said his country was currently forced to let the 3,000 to 4,000 migrants who arrive in his country on a daily basis continue their journey to Serbia and Hungary unimpeded.

“There is no European consensus on how we can handle this question,” he said.

As of 0600 GMT on Friday, an estimated 7,600 refugees had already crossed into Macedonia from Greece in a 24-hour period, according to the UN refugee agency.

Peter Salama, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said millions of people in Syria could become refugees and head to Europe if there is no end to the war.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from the border between Greece and Macedonia on Friday, said the situation has settled down after tensions on Thursday.

At the border crossing station, from where our correspondent was reporting, about 1,500 had crossed on Friday morning. They are reportedly being organised into groups of 50 people.

From there, public transportation will then take them to the border with Serbia, our correspondent said.

But overnight, the situation was tense, with “impatient” refugees facing off with the police.

“Macedonian border police had blocked their path and frustrations grew once more,” she said. “This is not the first time for the Macedonian border guards to use force.”

Syrian refugees Bassem, his wife Marwa, and their child Ali, were among those in the crowd. They left Syria 25 days ago, entering Greece through the island of Rhodes.

Bassem and Marwa told Al Jazeera that they feared Ali would not make the Mediterranean crossing.

“We know it’s going to be difficult here, we know some don’t want us, but it’s still much better than Syria,” Bassem said.

Major transit

Along with neighbouring Serbia, Macedonia has become a major transit country for tens of thousands of refugees who trudge up from Greece, after risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea crammed into makeshift boats.

The majority are heading for Germany, which has pledged to welcome hundreds of thousands more refugees having already taken in 450,000 to date since January.

So far, more than 160,000 have already crossed through Macedonia on their way to Serbia and Hungary this year.

Last month, the small Balkan nation declared a state of emergency as it struggled to cope with the relentless stream of people.

Reports overnight said that Hungary’s government is considering declaring a state of emergency within the next week.

Hungary completed a razor-wire barrier along its 175km border with Serbia in late August, but it has failed to stop distraught refugees from scaling the barrier.

The central European nation is building another fence four metres high that it aims to complete by late October or early November, and the government has said it will be manned by the military.

Some 85 percent of those hoping to eventually reach wealthy EU nations such as Germany or Sweden are not merely in search of a better life, but have been forced to leave because of wars in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, according to the UN’s refugee agency.

On Friday, the wife of an Austrian politician said Hungarian police have been feeding refugees “like animals in a pen” inside a border camp.

Michaela Spritzendorfer filmed the footage of the refugees surging forward against the fences surrounding them as officers toss food packets to them.

It reportedly happened at a makeshift camp in the Hungarian town of Rozke.

The incident was filmed on the same day the UN commissioner on refugees said conditions were getting worse there.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has ordered his administration to increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the country.

The United States has taken in just 1,500 Syrians since the civil war began in 2011.

UN to Europe: Guarantee to relocate 200,000 refugees

UNHCR spokeswoman calls for EU-led refugee mega-reception centres to be established in Greece, Italy and Hungary.

EU states are divided on a quota system, which allocates refugees to different member countries [AP]

EU states are divided on a quota system, which allocates refugees to different member countries [AP]

by Al Jazeera

The United Nations has called on European states to guarantee relocation for 200,000 refugees, as record numbers flee to the continent from war-torn nations.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Europe is a “wealthy” continent that could manage the numbers of people coming in.

The UN official said European Union countries needed to form a plan where it was mandatory for member states to accept refugees.

“There should be EU-led mega-reception centres established in Greece, in Italy and also in Hungary – whereby the people arriving could go to these centres and be received in decent humane conditions, and apply for asylum” Fleming said.

She added that under the current system, countries on Europe’s frontier were being “overburdened”.

At an earlier press briefing, Fleming said there was not a “German solution to a European problem”, in reference to the leading role taken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in ending the crisis.

“Those can only work if there is a guaranteed relocation system whereby European countries saying yes will take X number. We believe it should be 200,000, that’s the number we believe need relocation in Europe countries.”

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Vienna, said many refugees arriving there were worried about new measures that would restrict their movement.

“Even the Austrian government at this point doesn’t have a clear-cut path ahead… We spoke to a member of the interior ministry and quite clearly the government is struggling to come up with a coherent policy to stay within EU rules,” Jamjoom said.

A record 7,000 Syrian refugees arrived in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Monday, while some 30,000 are on Greek islands, including 20,000 on Lesbos, according to the UN.


Fleming’s comments came as EU President Donald Tusk warned that the refugee crisis affecting Europe was part of an “exodus” from war-torn countries that could last years.

Tusk said the current movement of people mainly from the Middle East would be a “problem for many years to come”.

“The present wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus,” the EU president said addressing a thinktank in Brussels on Monday.

European leaders are scrambling for solutions as bloody conflicts in mainly Syria and Iraq send hundreds of thousands of refugees on dangerous voyages through the Balkans and across the Mediterranean.

“Let us have no illusions that we have a silver bullet to reverse the situation,” he said.

Tusk, who represents the bloc’s leaders, urged for pragmatism and said member states must put aside their deep differences in facing the crisis.

One of the flashpoints of the crisis is Hungary, where tens of thousands of refugees seek to transit through on their way to wealthier EU states.

On Monday night, hundreds of angry and frustrated asylum seekers broke through police lines near Hungary’s southern border with Serbia and began marching north towards Budapest.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Roszke in Hungary, spoke to several refugees who said they had been poorly treated and did not have access to adequate shelter or sanitation.

One refugee said she had been beaten with a stick, while another pleaded with authorities to help his sick child.

The five-year-old, who was suffering from heat exhaustion and fever, was eventually helped by Hungarian medical teams and put on a drip, Simmons said.

Fresh clashes also erupted between police and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos Monday night, which authorities said was “on the verge of explosion”.

A number of European countries have announced they will be taking in part of the influx of people wanting to escape the conflicts in the Middle East.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would resettle up to 20,000 Syrians from camps in Turkey, Jordan, and Syria over the next five years.

French President Francois Hollande said his country would take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years.

The United States government said it was considering a range of approaches in response to the crisis.

Europe plans to house an additional 120,000 refugees

Germany and France will reportedly take in 50,000-plus additional refugees as Hungarian PM Orban dismisses quota plan.


by Al Jazeera

France’s President Francois Hollande has announced his country will take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years, while it is understood Germany will take 31,000 additional people under a European plan which is strongly opposed by Hungary.

The figure revealed by the French leader on Monday represents France’s share of a European proposal to relocate 120,000 refugees.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is due to unveil new proposals on Wednesday.

EU officials have said Juncker will propose adding 120,000 people to be relocated on top of a group of 40,000 the commission previously proposed relocating.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a gathering of foreign ambassadors on Monday, however, that the plan could not be discussed while the EU’s outer borders were not secured.

“Our problem is with the timing. As long as we can’t defend Europe’s outer borders, it is not worth talking about how many people we can take in,” he said.

“What does that solve if we divide up 100,000 people, while in the meantime millions are coming?”

The Hungarian leader instead wants the EU to provide funds to Turkey to keep refugees there, explaining refugees were coming to the EU for financial gain.

“If they want to continue on from Hungary, it’s not because they are in danger, it’s because they want something else,” he said, adding the wanted  “a German life”, not physical safety.

Unchecked, the stream of refugees would place an intolerable financial burden on European countries, he said, adding that this would endanger the continent’s “Christian welfare states”.

The plan is backed by countries including Germany, Austria, and Sweden, but former Eastern Bloc countries like Hungary, have been reluctant to accept the mainly Muslim influx of refugees.

Hungary has struggled to cope with more than 150,000 refugees entering the country this year, including 50,000 in August alone with several thousand arriving each day. The vast majority of those are heading for northern European countries such as Germany and Sweden.

Orban’s criticisms of the EU plan came as Austria said it planned to end emergency measures that have allowed thousands of refugees to flow into the country since Saturday.

In an announcement on Sunday, Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann said his country would move gradually “towards normality”.

“We have always said this is an emergency situation in which we must act quickly and humanely. We have helped more than 12,000 people in an acute situation,” Faymann said, according to the Reuters news agency.

Vienna had suspended its random border checks after photographs appeared online of a Syrian toddler lying dead on a Turkish beach. The images sparked global outcry and calls within Europe for governments to do more to help those trying to reach the European Union.

Vienna had agreed with Germany to waive rules requiring refugees to register an asylum claim in the first EU country they reach.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Nickelsdorf in Austria, said refugees “are concerned about the remarks they’ve been hearing” from Prime Minister Orban and the Austrian chancellor.

“Austrian officials have told us there won’t be border controls, but there will be spot checks because they’re trying to stem the tide of human trafficking,” he said.

Leaders from Merkel’s governing coalition also agreed to speed up asylum procedures and facilitate the construction of asylum shelters in a meeting on Sunday.


The agreement also included widening the list of countries deemed “safe”, meaning their citizens generally have no claim to asylum, to include Kosovo, Albania, and Montenegro. Among those already in that category are Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia.

The aim is to speed up asylum and extradition procedures for those from southeastern Europe, in order to focus on refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

European leaders have faced pressure domestically to do more for refugees in light of a series of deadly incidents [AP]

UN calls on EU states to accept 200,000 refugees from Syria, Iraq, elsewhere

Over 300,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea so far in 2015. (AFP/File)

Over 300,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea so far in 2015. (AFP/File)

by Press TV

The UN has criticized the European Union (EU) for failing to find a response to the spiraling refugee influx, urging the bloc to accept and distribute up to 200,000 asylum-seekers across the continent as part of a binding program for relocation of refugees.

“People who are found to have a valid protection claim… must … benefit from a mass relocation program, with the mandatory participation of all EU member states,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Friday.

“A very preliminary estimate would indicate a potential need to increase relocation opportunities to as many as 200,000 places,” he added.

The UN official criticized the EU for failing to “find an effective common response” to the “untenable situation” and said the only way to solve this problem is for the EU and all member states to “implement a common strategy, based on responsibility, solidarity and trust.”

“This is a primarily refugee crisis,” Guterres said, adding the vast majority of those arriving in Europe, including Greece, come from conflict zones like Syria and Iraq and are simply running for their lives.

“All people on the move in these tragic circumstances deserve to see their human rights and dignity fully respected, independently of their legal status,” he said.

Stressing that “the massive flow of people will not stop until the root causes of their plight are addressed,” the UN official said that “much more must be done to prevent conflicts and stop the ongoing wars that are driving so many from their homes.”

According to the UN official, more than 300,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, with over 2,600 losing their lives in the dangerous crossing, including three-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose photo has just stirred the hearts of the world public.

“Europe cannot go on responding to this crisis with a piecemeal or incremental approach,” Guterres said, referring to the pictures of the dead child whose lifeless body was found face down on a Turkish beach Wednesday.

The UN official’s remarks come as Europe is facing an unprecedented immigration and refugee crisis, which has escalated over summer. Refugees are coming directly to Europe instead of staying in camps in neighboring countries.

The continent is now divided over how to deal with a flood of people, mainly Syrians fleeing war in their homeland.

The 28-nation bloc is to convene a special meeting in two weeks to discuss a record surge in numbers and the opening up of new routes over the Balkans in addition to the Mediterranean Sea route.

Drowned Syrian Toddler Is Buried in Kobane

Abdullah Kurdi (center), father of the drowned three-year-old boy, holds his son's body during the funeral in Kobane. Photo via Dicle News Agency/EPA

Abdullah Kurdi (center), father of the drowned three-year-old boy, holds his son’s body during the funeral in Kobane. Photo via Dicle News Agency/EPA

by VICE News

The body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi has been laid to rest in the Syrian town of Kobane on Friday, alongside his brother and mother, who also died trying to reach Greece.

The shocking photographs of the drowned Syrian child, washed up on a beach near Bodrum, Turkey, have sparked international outcry this week. The images have reignited the debate as to how to help those fleeing from war and how to solve the European refugee crisis, where thousands have died trying to reach Europe by sea.

The child’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, buried his family in the ‘Martyrs’ Ceremony’ in the predominantly Kurdish town, near the border with Turkey.

Speaking at the border crossing, he called upon neighboring Arab countries to help Syrian refugees. Kurdi said: “What I want now is for Arab states, not the European ones, the Arab states, to see what happened to my children.”

In an interview with the BBC, Kurdi described how he lost his family at sea when the boat they were travelling by capsized: “I tried to steer the boat but another high wave pushed the boat over. That is when it happened,” he said.

“My children were the most beautiful children in the world. Is there anybody in the world for whom their child is not the most precious thing?”

It was initially reported that the Kurdi family was refused entry into Canada, yet an aunt in Vancouver clarified that she had tried to sponsor other relatives first.

Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences to the family during a speech on Thursday, and promised to “do more” if re-elected: “We should be doing everything, we are doing everything and and we will do more of everything,” he said.

Yet opposition Liberal leader Justin Trudeau retorted: “You don’t get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign. You either have it or you don’t.”

Other world leaders have also been criticized for not taking in more Syrian refugees, including British Prime Minister David Cameron. He has now vowed to accept “thousands” more people from UN camps bordering Syria.

On Friday, the UN refugee agency announced that Britain will accept 4,000 refugees from Syrian camps.

Drowned Syrian toddler was denied asylum in Canada: report

 A Turkish police officer carries a young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos. Photograph: Reuters

A Turkish police officer carries a young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos. Photograph: Reuters

by Tamar Pileggi, The Times of Israel

The toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach Wednesday was a Syrian-Kurdish refugee whose family was desperately trying to reach North America, even though Canada had rejected their request for asylum.

The image of a policeman cradling the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach has triggered horrified reactions as the tragedy of Europe’s burgeoning refugee crisis hits home.

Another 15 people were rescued from the boat, including the father of the family, Abdullah. According to the report, he said he now wishes to return to bury his family in their hometown.

Canadian legislator Fin Donnelly told The Canadian Press that a Vancouver-area woman had sought to sponsor the mother and two children but that her request was turned down by immigration officials.

The Ottowa Citizen quotes Aylan’s aunt, who immigrated to Vancouver over two decades ago, as saying that the Kurdi family’s privately funded refugee application had been rejected by Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Department in June, due to the catch 22-like dilemma displaced Syrians face.

Like thousands of other refugees in Turkey, they were not registered as refugees by the UN refugee agency, and the Turkish government does not to grant exit visas to unregistered refugees without valid passports.

“I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbors who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat. I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there,” Teema Kurdi said.

Aylan and his family were traveling on a tiny boat built for four people but thought to have been carrying 15 refugees. The family is believed to be from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani to have fled to Turkey last year to escape Islamic State extremists.

While the escalating migrant crisis has exposed deep divisions in the EU’s policy, the plight of Syrian refugees took center stage on the Canadian campaign trail this week, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisting that he would do more to help if his Tories are re-elected.

Harper has come under fire for not welcoming more Syrians fleeing their country’s deadly conflict. Canada agreed to resettle 20,000 refugees, but, as of late July, had only welcomed 1,002, according to government figures.

“As long as we have organizations like ISIS or the so-called Islamic State, creating literally millions of refugees and threatening to slaughter people all over the world, there is no solution to that through refugee policy,” Harper said. “We have to take a firm and military stance against ISIS and that’s what we’re doing.”

Canada joined the US-led coalition fighting the extremist group in November 2014, adding airstrikes on targets in Syria the following year.

‘Humanity washes ashore’ goes viral as photos capture horror of war, plight of refugees


 A Turkish police officer stands next to the body of the young boy. Photograph: Reuters

A Turkish police officer stands next to the body of the young boy. Photograph: Reuters

by Jon Queally, Common Dreams

A series of heartbreaking photos showing a young boy—believed to be a refugee from Syria—washed up on the beach in Turkey after a failed attempt to cross the sea to Greece is being shared and discussed across the world on Wednesday after many media outlets decided to publish the images as a way to confront Europeans—and humanity at large—with a “stark reminder” that “more and more refugees are dying in their desperation to flee persecution and reach safety.”

 A Turkish police officer carries a young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos. Photograph: Reuters

A Turkish police officer carries a young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos. Photograph: Reuters

Under the social media hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik (which translates from the Turkish as “humanity washes ashore”), the photos have spurred a global outcry surrounding the plight of those families and individuals who have become victims to the “callous indifference” of western nations and what international aid groups have decried as a broken system for the world’s ballooning refugee population.

As the Guardian reports:

The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.

The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright-red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum.

A second image portrays a grim-faced policeman carrying the tiny body away. Within hours it had gone viral becoming the top trending picture on Twitter under the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik (humanity washed ashore).

The two images described can be see here and here. (Warning: these images are graphic and may be distressing to view.)

Though only one young life out of the nearly three thousand people estimated to have died so far this year while attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, the pictures of the young boy appear to have captured the collective sorrow of those sickened by a world in which children—with or without their families—are forced to face such dangers in order to escape the threats of war and impoverishment that have made their homelands unlivable.

(Editor’s note: Despite agreeing with the sentiment that such images should be seen as a way for the general public to be confronted with the horrors wrought by endless war, a global assault on human rights, and the scourge of poverty and statelessness that results, Common Dreams has decided not to publish the images on our pages given their ubiquity elsewhere and in deference to the unidentified child’s family and anyone who may be needlessly traumatized by viewing such images.)

Responding to the impact the photo was having, Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, told the Guardian the “tragic image of a little boy who’s lost his life fleeing Syria is shocking and is a reminder of the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life. This child’s plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis.”

Explaining why it published the un-edited photos prominently on its homepage, the UK-based Independent said it made the decision “because, among the often glib words about the ‘ongoing migrant crisis,’ it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees.”

While dramatic images of desperate refugees “emerge almost every day,” the newspaper continued, “the attitude of Europe’s policymakers and much of the public have continued to harden.”

In an open letter to “anyone who ever talked down the refugee crisis,” the Independent‘s sister publication, i100, went further on the necessity of the general public seeing the photos. Addressed to a cross-section of individuals and groups of people who have framed the plight of refugees seeking asylum in Europe as a “migrant crisis”—specifically [British Prime Minister] David Cameron, Theresa May, Nigel Farage, the Daily Express, protesters in Germany, Katie Hopkins, Philip Hammond, anyone who has ever written a disparaging comment on a Mail Online article, police in Hungary, the governments of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia, the people of Britain, Czech police, tourists in Kos, Tony Abbott, cartoonists, Ukip MEPs and people on Twitter—the letter chastises those who have disparaged and dehumanized those desperate enough to make the journey while “spreading anti-migrant and anti-refugee sentiment” across Europe and beyond. It states:

Some of you have hauled refugees off trains and written numbers on their arms.

Some of you have simply built a wall.

Somehow you’ve lost sight of the simple fact that our fellow humans are in dire need of help, having fled death and destruction in their homelands only to face an even more perilous journey into Europe.

Somehow you’ve stopped seeing refugees, and they are refugees, for what they are, and tried to deny them the assistance they are legally, and morally, entitled to.

But it has to end, and end now. It has to end because people are dying in their thousands, because Europe’s reputation as a champion of human rights is disintegrating, because if we don’t act now we will regret it for the rest of our history.

“Enough is enough,” the letter concluded. “Attitudes have to change. See the human and not the imagined danger that anything is under threat apart from these people’s lives.  A refugee crisis unlike any other since the Second World War is unfurling on our doorstep and now is the time to help people who need it the most.”

Despite the distressing and repetitive imagery, the social media conversation surrounding the images continues on Twitter and other platforms.