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Humanity Washed Ashore

10/09/2015 16:22 BST | Updated 10/09/2016 10:12 BST

"My eyes are not baby blue. My hair is not blonde. If you have to stretch your soul to places unknown to feel sadness, to see your own child in my brown skin...perhaps this is a good time for you to turn away." Moon Shining, Daniella Maison

Last week, newspapers were consumed by a single photo. A dead 3-year-old boy, his tiny body washed-up on the beach. Alayn, his 5-year-old brother Ghalib and mother Rehanna were among the 12 Syrians who died when their boats capsized on their way to Kos. Naturally, it became a political hot-potato.

Ex-UKIP candidate Peter Bucklitsch, took to Twitter to say: "The little Syrian boy... died because his parents were greedy for the good life in Europe. Queue jumping costs."

Alayn soon became the 'dead refugee baby', fodder for our dinner-time debates; a babe in the woods to prove or disprove all of our immigration 'fears'.

I ask 'Where has our humanity gone?'

The refugee situation requires careful, considered attention. However, the reality is that we (however anti-UKIP we claim to be) are starting to view refugees as intruders, creeping into our country and jumping over wire fences to steal our jobs.

Since baby Aylan's death there has been Merkel and Cameron. The fear-mongering statistics. Media spin. Legal framework. Political engagement. What about our emotional engagement?

As we judge his father's actions do we try to imagine what it must be like to put our babies aboard a rickety boat in the dark of the night to chase a brighter horizon? Or do we, in our western arrogance, detach ourselves from their plight? Do we cease empathising to such an extent that we dare to think they do not love their children as we do?

After Aylans death, tabloids quickly reverted back to crass headlines about 'masses' of 'aliens'. I feel the need to remind us all, including myself, that his death is not purely a political catastrophe. It is a human one.

I am a true believer in freedom of expression, honest discussion and open debate. Yet I feel that we must first pause to remember we are talking about individual human beings. Referring to suffering people as an 'influx' is a sign that we are losing touch with our sense of humanity. The graphic photograph of Aylan's corpse is testimony to this.

I ask you the question, when did you last see the body of a British child in the newspaper? The general idea is that photographs like Aylan's serve as a 'wake up call' to the general public. With my PR hat on, I understand the concept. As a mother, my fear is that we have become desensitised.

It's worth adding here that we did not see the bodies of the two American journalists gunned down in Virginia on live television last month. The media instantly stopped the images from 'going viral'. They said it would be disrespectful to their families and too distressing for us to see.

Each year I watch 'Save The Children' and note that British victims of child abuse are portrayed by actors. That, it would seem, is enough to rouse our sympathies. So it should be. Yet when it comes to the segment on African children, they show us actual footage of dying children screaming in agony to draw donations.

When did we stop seeing our own children in the faces of foreign children?

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown hoped Aylans photograph might "break through emotional and political fortresses."

Former editor of The Observer, Roger Alton, instead called the image a "great piece of journalism".

"It's a very powerful thing... a million victims is a statistic, one dead child is a tragedy." Guess what? Tragedies sell papers. Somewhere inside me I fear that more of us cried watching Leonardo Dicaprio drown in 'Titanic' than we did for little Aylan.

So here is my call to action.

You are seated in a room chatting with someone whom looks just like your father. You share stories. He tells you that he once tried to give his wife and children a better life. He weeps as he says 'I tried to catch my children and wife but there was no hope. One by one they died.' His children would have been scared. They would have reached out to him. Imagine the sheer devastation of being unable to save your child. Days later, he wept as the coffins of his entire family were lowered into the ground.

We must look, listen, and feel with our hearts. We must see beyond the hype and build our perspectives from a place of humanness. Compassion, after-all, is the very heartbeat of our global community. Without it, humanity washes ashore.

"Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive." Dalai Lama