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Before You Make a Migrant Out of the Man, Try Walking in Their Shoes

04/09/2015 12:51 BST | Updated 03/09/2016 10:59 BST

Raghad Hasoun was 11 years old. She died after being without insulin for five days.

Like me, she was a type 1 diabetic. Like me, she had a family who were willing to go to the ends of this earth for her. With the same precaution as my own dad, Eyas Hasoun split his daughter's insulin into two separate bags for the journey. They were desperate to reach Germany, where they could access the medical care their daughter needed.

My parents have often said that the first thing they would save from a burning building is my insulin. When the traffickers ordered Raghad's mother to throw the medication overboard, she pleaded "it is more precious to [me] than [my] own soul".

As a diabetic, insulin is your life jacket. When I began secondary school at the age of 11, it was stored safely in the medical centre. My life support was not cast out to sea.

Now, each time my blood sugar begins to creep up, I think of that little girl. As the dehydration and exhaustion set in, my mind goes to the inflatable boat from which an eleven-year-old murmured "Daddy, Daddy." I have said almost those exact words before. The difference was, my insulin was within reach and my parents had the power to help me.

Raghad was in the middle of the ocean and all her mind craved was water. She was surrounded by a family who loved her unconditionally, yet without medication she became another victim of the refugee crisis. This story held particular resonance for me, due to our shared medical condition, yet it is one of thousands that humanize the migrant mark.

Aylan Kurdi was 3 year old. His brother, Ghalib, was 5. Both were found drowned on the shores of Kos. This week three and four year olds will be attending nursery for the first time. Aylan's lifeless body has been broadcast across TV screens and newspapers, but his smiling school photo will never stand on a windowsill.

Like Raghad Hasoun's father, the love Abdullah Kurdi had for his children is unmistakable: "is there anybody in the world for whom their child is not the most precious thing?" Both parents were seeking a better life for their child. Nonetheless, 3 children now join the 2400 estimated people who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. 2400 people found death in their attempt to live. Yet for those who survive the perilous crossing, humanity is often far from reach.

Hussein Al-Shamali is 20 years old. He is an engineering graduate, but the Syrian Civil War prematurely ended his education. He hopes to reach Germany, aspiring to become a doctor so he can "give back" to all the people who supported him. He carries all his academic records in a backpack. As for many young people in developing countries, education takes the highest value.

Many 20 year olds in the UK will be preparing to return to University; it is not a prospect threatened by Civil War. Hussein, like thousands of European students, wants to study medicine. Hussein, like hundreds of UK students, wants to save lives. Hussein's life, unlike the vast majority of these students, is under-threat in his native country. Many 18 year olds will be heading to University for the first time. In eastern Europe, a 17-year-old asylum seeker is shot in a crossfire between border police and smugglers.

Riham, 11, and Walit, 9, are both from Syria. As children their age in Europe head to art classes, they draw from a Hungary train station. Their pictures are not of woodland scenes, or self-portraits, but depictions of the Civil War that is tearing their country apart.

The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union. The EU pledges "respect for and protection of minorities". This same country used felt-tip pens to write numbers onto the skin of refugees. Refugees like Riham and Walit. We are 70 years on from the end of World War II, yet here we have disturbing echoes of Nazi Germany. Where is compassion in the face of crisis?

24601. This final statistic is fictional, but carries a sobering fact. Given to Jean Valjean, in the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, it is the prison number that comes to replace his name. This man was persecuted for stealing a loaf of bread; for trying to feed his sister's child.

When I saw the number branding on the 10 O'Clock news last week, I saw instant parallels to a story written 150 years ago. An innocent man being stripped of a name. Parents condemned for trying to save their children. Eyas Hasoun and Abdullah Kurdi would have done anything to save their children, yet refugees like them are being treated as convicts. They are being robbed of their humanity.

The response in some areas of Europe, from Hungary to the UK, has discarded all sense of compassion. Our government may have done a U-Turn on its approach, but only after the overwhelming external pressure.

To the people who still condemn those seeking Asylum, among them politicians and UK Media, it is your choice.

Aim the gun at Kos, if you can say you would aim it in your own country tomorrow.

Throw the stones, if you can say you would stand for having them thrown at you.

Call these refugees migrants, if you can say that living in fear of your life is an economic issue.

Close the Internet tabs and newspapers on the corpse of a five-year child. Go back to the 'real' issues of the social sphere, such as the latest CBB update or celebrity selfie. It won't erase the reality.

On September 1st, as children lament that they haven't received their Hogwarts Letter, an 11 year old may have been given the most precious train ticket of their life. They may have been given "the power to imagine better", as JK Rowling concluded her Harvard Commencement address. They also have the right to imagine better.

We all have the right to wake up without the sound of gunshots in our ears. So before you make a migrant out of the man, try walking in their shoes.