Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Couple Of Rumours Corrected

September 9, 2015

by Martin Odoni

Discussion of the Syrian Refugee Crisis has caused a lot of increased emotion over the last few days, especially since pictures began circulating on social media of Aylan Kurdi, the boy who drowned off the Turkish coast. One of the upshots of the photos has been that many people who normally resent immigration, including a lot of the ever-fickle mainstream media, have suddenly become passionate humanitarians, although often only in narrowly militaristic terms.

The clamour has met stiffened resistance from other xenophobic elements however, who seem determined to view compassion as a weakness, and who regard the refugees with an stubborn suspicion. Hand-in-hand with this has, inevitably, been a campaign of misinformation about the crisis, misinformation clearly designed to cast refugees in a very ugly light.

I have decided to address a few of the rumours I have seen circulating.

1) “Islamic State (ISIL) are sending hundreds of thousands of their soldiers to Europe by infiltrating the refugees.”

This may just go down as the daftest conspiracy theory currently circulating on social media. It implies that ISIL has noticed huge numbers of refugees fleeing Syria, and many of them heading for Europe, and realised that if their own troops were to ‘mingle’ amongst the refugees, they could ‘ride the flow’ to the West and cause havoc when they arrive.

This idea is ridiculous for several reasons.

Firstly, ISIL is presently fighting a war on at least seven fronts. It is not only fighting several campaigns in different parts of Syria, but it is also in Iraq, Iran and Jordan, while also holding a substantial presence in Libya. The highest estimate for the total number of troops fighting for ISIL is around 200,000. Most other estimates suggest fewer than 100,000. Therefore, for ISIL to send ‘hundreds of thousands’ to Europe would mean displacing their entire forces, and the instantaneous surrender of what they view as ‘The Holy Land’, which is the prize they are fighting over in the first place. While fighting on so many fronts, ISIL simply does not have the soldiers to spare to send to Europe, even in their hundreds, let alone hundreds of thousands.

Furthermore, seeing many of ISIL’s recent recruits are from Europe, infiltrating the refugees sounds needlessly over-elaborate. The organisation could just send their European recruits back home, any of whom who have not been identified in the West as ISIL recruits would be allowed in by birthright, without all the knotty difficulties caused by immigration procedures. If there is anything to be afraid of at all on this score, it would be European nationals who have been radicalised and return home. (And even then, given how incompetent the average militant tends to be when operating alone, that danger is still pretty slight.) It is not a plausible danger from the refugees.

One more thing; when challenged to prove that this infiltration is really happening, the standard source the anti-asylum lobby offers us – without a link to a corroborating report – is an assertion that ISIL have openly announced that they are doing it. Given that infiltration is by definition something that is done in secret, would it not defeat the object of the exercise for ISIL to let us know like this? If they really are saying such things, and I can find no reliable source to suggest they are, it seems very likely that they are bluffing to heighten our fear of them.

To the xenophobes, I would therefore like to extend thanks on ISIL’s behalf for co-operating with them so completely.

2) “The refugees are refusing aid we have generously sent to them, so clearly they do not need our help.”

This rumour seems to have been triggered by a single video of what is claimed to be a train full of Syrian refugees in Hungary. The video shows several people in a crowd apparently throwing away a couple of crates of bottles that have been presented to them.

While not wishing to sound like a bit of  ‘tin-foil-hat-wearer’, I need to point out that there are several reasons why this evidence is being grossly misrepresented.

Firstly, people are presenting it in a wildly-generalised way, assuming that all refugees are refusing aid from the West, wherever they are, just because of one example in one place and time. This rumour has been debunked by the British Red Cross via its Twitter account; –

The Red Cross refutes accusations that refugees are declining aid.

The lie that refugees are refusing aid in Syria’s neighbouring countries, debunked by the Red Cross.

The incident in the video was a couple of people in a crowd of dozens rejecting aid from Hungarian authorities. It is ridiculous to portray that as indicative of refugee attitudes everywhere. It is even quite a stretch to assume it is indicative of the attitudes of the people just on that train.

Secondly, the video is not free-of-suspicion in itself. The only versions of it I have so far seen include no soundtrack – not that I speak Hungarian or Arabic but there would be plenty of people out there who would be able to translate what the people in the video are saying if only there were sound – there is no time-stamp on the images, therefore we cannot say when they were recorded – they could be years old for all we know – and the context of the video is unclear. We do not know, for instance, where the train came from, who the people on board the train are, or what happened to them during their journey which might have led them to reject aid.

Were I pushed for a possible explanation – and I freely admit this is speculative – the one I would point to is that the police officers in the pictures are all visibly wearing paper masks over their mouths; the implication of that is something at which the refugees could easily take offence if they are unable to understand the explanation, and their rejection of the bottles could be a way of saying, “You think we’re dirty? You think we’re carrying germs? Well we think your water is dirty!” Given the crass hostility the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, has shown towards the refugees, this presumed insult would fit a pattern in their minds.

If you think that unlikely, remember that most of the refugees will probably speak Arabic and no Hungarian, while most of the police will probably speak Hungarian and no Arabic. Communication is therefore going to be immensely difficult, and it will be quite a trick for the police to explain that they are compelled to wear the masks as a precaution, whether they wish to wear them or not.

As I say, this is a speculative explanation, but it is no more speculative or less plausible, and it is far more coherent, than simply writing the refugees off as being arrogant and ungrateful – which is scarcely an explanation at all in fact.

What I can say is that there is plenty of evidence from other refugees who have made it to Hungary that they are deeply unhappy with how they have so far been treated there.


3) “Why don’t the refugees stay in neighbouring countries instead of coming here?” Also sometimes worded as, “The other countries in the Middle East aren’t taking in their fair share!”

Quite simply, most of them are. The below image from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was published in August last year, since which time the crisis has increased by well over twenty-five per cent; around September last year, the total number of refugees from Syria went past three million, and has now gone past four million.

As the graphic shows, most of Syria’s neighbouring countries had already taken in enormous numbers of refugees by a year ago, and tiny Lebanon in particular had become massively overburdened.

c/o UNHCR, Syrian refugee estimates from August 2014

c/o UNHCR. These figures are over a year old, and the crisis has increased by a quarter since then.

So refugees in the main do go straight to near neighbours. But the more people arrive, the more difficult it becomes for them to stay, as resources start to be used up rapidly. Hence, many of them start to move further afield after a while. The Kurdi family, for instance, had been in refuge in Turkey for some three years before attempting their ill-fated sea-voyage to Greece, with the number of refugees in Bodrum growing so rapidly that living conditions were deteriorating.

So when Ross England, the ironically-named Welsh Conservative candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan Assembly constituency, ‘knowledgeably’ asserts, “Genuine refugees flee to the nearest safe country. Those crossing to Europe are illegal economic migrants”, he is rather taking a ‘snapshot’ view of what the refugees are going through i.e. assuming their circumstances will remain identical for the entire time they are in exile, while asserting that if they were genuine refugees, they would be doing…. well, exactly what the Syrian refugees are in fact doing.

Now there are some neighbours in the region who have not accepted refugees, and I am certainly not defending those countries, especially the immensely rich House of al-Saud in Saudi Arabia. But even some of them have still sent considerable amounts of money to help the refugees, while the reasons they have for refusing to let people in, while still not justifying their stance, are not simply narrow callousness; the delicate ethnic and cultural balance of their populations could be adversely affected by attempts to assimilate large numbers of predominantly Sunni people. If that were to happen, it might lead to even more conflict.

So the real picture is quite a lot more varied and complex than the one the anti-asylum brigades are trying to paint.

4) “The Kurdi family tried to make the crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands because Abdullah Kurdi wanted a set of replacement teeth he could get for free in Europe.”

This rumour has been circulating since last weekend, and seems to have originated with supporters of either Britain First or the UK Independence Party (surprise, surprise). The idea is silly and would depend on Abdullah Kurdi behaving in a very counter-intuitive fashion.

The notion appears to have its roots in a part of Abdullah Kurdi’s explanation for why he had chosen to take his family away from Syria. He mentions in it (no, James Delingpole, you habitual, tantrum-throwing liar, Kurdi did say it, even a reporter from your own beloved Daily Telegraph attributes the story to him, and not just to some random blogger) that he was tortured by ISIL operatives who beat him so severely that eight of his teeth were broken.

This, along with an interview given by Kurdi’s Canada-based sister Fatima, has been twisted by xenophobic elements to mean that the only reason they were making the journey to Greece was so that Abdullah could get his teeth fixed. The problem is that this is not what she said. The reason for leaving was just that life in Turkey was so miserable for them that after three years they could bear no more and wanted to start a new life somewhere else. Being Kurdish Syrians, which is not an ethnicity held in high regard in Turkey, this is hardly surprising. Now, I suppose a chance for Abdullah to get his teeth fixed might have been a part of a ‘new life’ in the very long term, and for his own health it would have to be attended to sooner or later, but the mention in context shows clearly that it scarcely featured in their considerations.

The big question that the accusation misses of course, and for which we are still awaiting a sensible answer, is as follows; if Abdullah Kurdi’s big priority was dental treatment, why did he bother dragging his family along with him at all? He was sent money by his sister so he could hire smugglers to get him to Europe, but taking his wife and sons with him made the journey much more complicated and heavily increased the cost. (To the degree, come to think of it, that he would struggle to afford the dental treatment.) If finding a better life for his family were not a factor in his plans, would it not all have been easier, and cheaper, for him to travel to Europe alone, get his teeth fixed, and then go back to Turkey? For that matter, why the long-term plan to head all the way to Canada if all he was looking for was a dentist? We do have them on this side of the Atlantic, you know.

Another bizarre aspect of the rumour is that, with the crossing to Europe costing about three thousand dollars, a ‘free’ set of dentures sounds like a seriously false economy. I am not suggesting that Abdullah Kurdi is a man of shrewd thrift – I have no way of knowing – but then he would not have to be to see that the crossing was a dangerous and expensive gamble, for which false teeth would surely not be a worthwhile prize.

5) “This refugee crisis proves that Parliament should have voted in favour of military action against Syria in 2013.”

Just over two years ago, UK Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to get Parliamentary approval to intervene militarily in Syria against the Government of Bashar al-Assad. Cameron lost the vote at the end of the debate, and some of those who wanted military action are now presenting the current crisis as evidence that he should have been given the go-ahead.

The difficulties with that assertion arrive at us from several directions.

For one thing, the intervention proposed two years ago was expressly and specifically to be against the Assad regime, whereas a great many of the refugees are from areas that have been devastated by ISIL, which is one of the many forces arranged against Assad. Intervening to destroy the Syrian state military would have made it easier for ISIL to conquer northern Syria, triggering much the same refugee crisis.

For another, the reason there are so many refugees is that vast stretches of Syrian territory have been left uninhabitable by intense bombing and fierce ground-fighting. Whole towns have been turned into ruins. Military intervention would mean more bombing, more fierce ground-fighting, and therefore potentially still more refugees. Rather than solving the crisis, there is a great danger it would have made it worse.

The slightly infantile Western presumption of heroism in military intervention is a constant feature when Britain or the USA are at war. There are often genuine altruistic motives at work, but seldom very well-developed ones, and many of the people and organisations linked to military action do not share in them. The over-excited enthusiasm in the media, mentioned above, for the possibility of war abroad goes hand-in-hand with an unquestioning assumption that there are no sinister motives for it. There are times when the fraudulence, especially in right-wing tabloids, is like this; –

Anglo-American 'heroics' as seen by The S*n.

The mainstream media are experts in portraying hawkish and bombastic behaviour by the USA and Britain as heroic and noble.

Even when motives are genuine, the effects of military interventions in the Middle East are frequently terrible, due to poor planning and clumsy execution; for instance Tony Blair’s wish (though not the wishes of most of the rest of the British Establishment) for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was probably born of genuine motives to ‘destroy evil’, but it was almost juvenile in its development and caused much of the regional instability that led to the very war now being fought in Syria.

It is therefore hard to credit the unspoken assumption that an intervention would even have been successful.

6) “The migrants aren’t refugees because they have nice clothes.”

It says a lot about our petty prejudices that we become suspicious of those in need just when they do not conform to the image we are conditioned in our heads to expect of them. It is as though we are startled by and resentful of such people not looking the way they would stereotypically appear in a movie about dispossessed people. The most well-reported example of this judgement is probably a Tweet from UK Independence Party member Peter Bucklitsch.

Rags are part of the refugee uniform that UKIP insts be issued.

The Far Right have great trouble accepting anybody as being what they are when they do not conform to the stereotype appearance imagined. Note that the ill-informed Bucklitsch is assuming the Kurdi family were looking to settle in Europe, when they were actually trying to get to Canada.

So there you have it. Because refugees are often arriving wearing clean T-shirts and intact shoes, they cannot be refugees, and how dare they come asking for help while still in possession of one or two things that are quite nice. It is an elitist position to take, akin to the irrational tendency to get uncontrollably angry when seeing a benefits claimant owning something expensive, even if it is the only nice possession in their whole life.

It is a silly prejudice, nothing more.

7) “These refugees are cowards! They should stay at home and fight to protect it, instead of running away.”

There is a very naive machismo driving this concept, as though every human being is just a natural soldier, born to unlimited military skills. This idea may be created by watching far too many Rambo movies, or by assuming that Luke Skywalker’s sudden transition from farmer to tyranny-toppling magical warrior is based on a real story.

In reality, in most countries the great majority of people will have no military experience or skills at all, and without them, they are likely to be a liability rather than a bonus to the defences of their home. It might have been different back in the pre-industrial era, when simple weapons, city walls, and brute strength were the orders of the day, but in these days of bombing jets, semi-automatic rifles, ballistic missiles, and heavy tanks, the best thing almost any civilian can do is just get his/her family as far out of the way as possible. It does not matter even if the civilians are young men. If they have no military experience and are poorly-equipped, they are simply going to get in the way, before just adding themselves to the gruesome pile-up of dead bodies. There is nothing to be achieved by that.

I have heard more than one person saying, “Why don’t they stay and rebuild their homes then?” which is just as silly a question. Anything they rebuild while the war is going on will almost certainly be destroyed again. This is assuming they would even have a supply of the materials they would need with which to rebuild anything, which is itself a big doubt. “Why don’t they stay and wait for the war to end, and then rebuild?” Because they will die if they stay, either of thirst and starvation from remaining in a ruined city with no infrastructure or supply lines left, or simply by getting gunned down by the combatants.

The majority of the refugees would probably like to return and rebuild, but they can only do that once it is safe to do so. In the meantime they have to concentrate on simply keeping themselves alive. Getting killed is not going to help rebuild the ruins of north Syria.

This is what the war has done to vast stretches of land from Libya to Syria to Iraq. Wishing to escape it is not cowardice.

If this happened to your home, and there is little sign of help or protection coming from anywhere, and the conflict showed no sign of relenting, would you stay?

So people who make this testosterone-fuelled accusation are completely ignorant of obvious plain reality. Judging experiences of which they can have no earthly knowledge, it is easy for them to make such stupid remarks, because Britain has not been subject to horrors on this scale for centuries. (Before anyone says it, no, the Blitz in 1940 did not come anywhere close to what is happening in Syria right now. The damage caused by the Blitz was relatively brief, superficial and intermittent.) It would be very instructive to see how these ‘armchair macho men’ would respond if anything similar ever did happen to the UK.

It also bears mentioning that a lot of the Syrian refugees are Kurdish. The idea that a Syrian Kurd crossing borders into Iraq or Turkey is a ‘coward’ is nonsense, as they would be heading into countries that have very hostile views of Kurds – at least foreign-born ones. Such a move is therefore brave to the point of foolhardy.

And finally, for now at least…

8) “Isn’t it a bit suspicious how all the refugees who get to Europe are athletic young men?”

They are not. It is true that a high proportion of the refugees who get to Europe are men aged between fifteen and twenty-five, but then, while not wishing to sound chauvinistic or to write off older generations, that is the demographic that is most likely to survive such dangerous journeys. For unavoidable biological reasons, they are simply the people who are likely to be strongest and fittest.

But they are certainly not the only ones to get to Europe, nor are they even particularly close to being the only ones. Selective editing and presentation of media images by people who have an agenda are what give that impression. I will let someone else take up the story there.



20 Responses to “Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Couple Of Rumours Corrected”

  1. Thankyou for comprehensively addressing the endless ignorant views constantly expressed in the media, then subsequently repeated throughout Britain. I sincerely hope your article educates many.

  2. Excellent article. I would just like to add that according to the most recent UN data, only 45.5% of the refugees are actually male. Interestingly, 72% of those who have died making the crossing have been male. Could it be because they put their women and children first and clung to the outside of the severely overcrowded boats? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting statistic nevertheless.

    • Martin Odoni Says:

      Thank you for sharing that, I wasn’t aware of it. I shall make sure that it is as well publicised as I can make it.

    • Pj Russell Says:

      I looked at your statistics and they are for the 4 million registered refugees in the neighbouring countries. Can you please explain why you think the demographics of the registered refugees in neighbouring countries can be applied to those entering Europe now? There are a million and one such logical fallacies applied throughout this article which I haven’t the time to address, but this one really made me facepalm.

      • Martin Odoni Says:

        Okay, I’ve rechecked and you are correct that the figures are for the neighbouring countries, so I will amend the text in the article to reflect that. However, I should point out that no one actually *said* that they applied to Europe. I thank you for the correction.

        As for, “there are a million and one such logical fallacies… I haven’t the time to address”, sorry, but when commenters use grossly hyperbolic terminology like that, what I hear in my head is, “I don’t really want to agree with this article, but I can only find one thing definitely wrong in it. So I’ll spend a while kicking up a fuss about that, pretend it’s just one mistake among torrents of them, and then pretend I haven’t got time to highlight any of the others, even though I mysteriously *did* have time to look up the link provided and to write out this reply.”

      • My apologies if the UN data I presented to Martin has been considered misleading in any way. That was not my intent and I never stated that the figures in the UN report applied specifically to Europe. The statistics for that, simply aren’t available. I presented the link so that interested people might have more factual data with which to base their opinions on. The claims we have heard that the majority of refugees are male are based on no hard evidence whatsoever and are being drawn simply from a handful of questionable images of whose sources more often than not, tend to have a clear agenda behind their claims. At this point in time the best we can do is look at the demographic of the total number of refugees fleeing Syria.

      • I should also add that the same data points out that currently less than 10% of the total number of refugees have applied for asylum within the EU. While the data I linked to does not directly debunk the assertions floating around, considering that 90% of all refugees went to the countries mentioned, it can certainly be considered the best indication of the truth that we have currently.

  3. Gary Rudd Says:

    In order to correct another rumour please change the boy’s name to Alan Kurdi. It may lend some creedence to everything else contained in your article.

    • Martin Odoni Says:

      I’ve decided that I’ll leave it as it is for now, as my understanding is that either spelling is legitimate. It is a translation across different alphabets, which is always a dicey exercise, and there are many words and names carried over from Arabic dialects that can be spelled more than one way in the Roman alphabet.

      If I see an official source that states definitively that it should be spelt ‘Alan’, I will change it.

  4. I felt compelled to read this article, as like most people i sit and watch the news and worry what the world is coming to, i feel these people have been demonized by some of the media.i hope people read this and feel compassion for these people who just want a better life wherever that may be

  5. Helene Morse Says:

    I wish the people who believe these ridiculous ideas were the ones who would read this, but I fear they are unlikely to. We, the little people will keep repeating the reality, till we run out of breath, even if I only manage to change one opinion, I will feel I have achieved something.

  6. I watched in the 1970s and 1980s another set of refugees come to this country. It was a trickle and did not make headline news perhaps due to that or the fact they were white and English speaking. I would say over 90% of that group were young males between the age of 15-25. Why? Because they were the ones likely to be recruited to the South African Armed Forces and they came from families that were strongly anti-apartheid in conviction.

    So even without considering the likelihood of survival I would expect young men to be high among those who flee. If they do not want to be “recruited” to a particular faction quite often this is their only option.

  7. In relation to the video of refugees throwing away those bottles of water, the BBC was on the scene at the time, and they reported that some of the men on that train refused help from the Hungarian police since the latter had lied to the refugees. They had been promised they would be sent to Austria, but were sent off into a siding in preparation to be sent off to a camp. So, they were refusing help from the police until the cops honoured their promise. They were of the opinion that if they accepted that help, that would send a message to the cops that they were happy to be sent to that camp. [Others, however, accepted that help.]

    Thanks for the above post/article of yours, by the way!

  8. I can’t find the other report from the BBC (it’s not on their website as far as I can tell), however, there are dozens of videos here that might contain relevant details; I can’t tell since many are in languages I don’t speak!

    I’ll try the BBC again tomorrow. Getting too late!

  9. – ISIL I believe claim to have infiltrated around 4000 fighters into north Europe, or perhaps you are trawling hard-right/white supremacst websites for his ‘facts’, in the interest of sensationalism. I have never seen this figure of hundreds of thousand reported anywhere. 4000 hardened fighters is a horrific number, if true.
    – ISIL most definitely would report this infiltration to western journalists. A major part of their campaign is to cause terror, hence their hacking off of heads on video. Would there be any oher reason to show their brutality? This is not rocket science.
    – Any Muslims returning to north Europe are already suspicious in the eyes of the west and liable to scrutiny. What better silent fighters than refugees who arrive with no papers and cannot be identified.
    – In most GCC countries, a Shia population is ruled over by Sunni sheikhs. Why would the ruling party not want to assilimate a large number of Sunni into their population? Odoni is finding excuses to support his own views against the obvious answer that these countries purely and simply are xenophobic to the extent that they only want foreign workers, not immigrants, and that only on a temporary basis, irrespective of their religion. Perhaps foreigners that have worked in these countries have a sharper view.
    – The latest news on the Kurdi family seems to be that the father was driving the boat. It was corroborated by others on the boat. Also there is a large Kurdish territory in north Syria/south Turkey, defended by their own army, where his family would have been welcomed. His decision to take his family on a dangerous boat journey when none of them could swim, was to say the least selfish. So we are sure he wasn’t driven by the desire for a better life financially? Hardly.
    – Are you saying that ISIL fighters have years of military training, and therefore that ordinary Syrians should not be expected to pick up arms to defend themselves for this reason? I think we all know this would be factually incorrect, ISIL do not have a trained army, but their savagery more than makes up for it.
    – Are you saying that the reason that almost all people photographed leaving trains in Germany are male is that hundreds of thousands of women, children and the old have died enroute, but unrecorded by the world’s press who are swarming over eastern Europe covering this matter? His explanation is ludicrous and I won’t even address it further.
    – You suggest that the pictures of men with no women must be the result of biased media coverage. The underlying idea is correct but the left-wing anti-media bias is yours. The coverage has been almost exclusively heartstring pulling, highlighting the plight of FAMILIES at risk. Unfortunately the cameras and news reports are giving the lie to this daily. The families are mostly staying safe in the camps closer to home. The fit men are abandoning them to seek a better life. You provides a link to ‘internet memes’, which are always produced by people with a bias of some sort, but don’t mention that we can simply Google for actual images of refugees arriving in Europe, see that overwhelmingly they are male and young, and click to follow the actual story linked to the image.

    I’m afraid that I find your article unconvincing. I agree that Europe must provide money and homes to genuine refugees, but I am old enough to believe in ‘women and children first’, and anyone jumping over the heads of these shoud be discouraged.

    • Martin Odoni Says:

      – 1) ‘Hundreds of thousands’ is a claim I have seen put about repeatedly on Facebook groups. Whether it’s official or not, or it’s people mishearing what there were told, it is a rumour that is being put about, therefore it needs debunking.

      – 2) Oh yes, they would report it to the media; but only if they are NOT actually doing it. If they were really doing it, they would keep quiet about it because it would lessen the chances of guarding against it, and nothing is likelier to cause terror than actual acts of terror. Words of terror cause paranoia, but are never as effective, so they would only resort to them if they can’t do anything more.

      – 3) “What better silent fighters than refugees who arrive with no papers and cannot be identified.”

      Frankly, anyone would be better, because the refugees are already being heavily-policed, which enormously slows down the process of travelling anywhere that they could do any harm.

      – 4) I said very clearly that I am not defending the other GCC countries. I have long been a very firm critic of the likes of the House of al-Saud, which I have always regarded as one of the most loathsome Governments on Earth, and I would recommend you don’t go around telling me what my opinions are. The problem I mentioned is that some countries in the region have a delicate population balance that they do not want to alter. I have stated firmly that that is not a good reason to refuse aid. If you want to simplify their views to xenophobia, go right ahead, but don’t assume that an argument that it is something else constitutes some kind of defence.

      – 5) Kurdi himself openly stated he was driving the boat. But what he stated is that he took over the controls after the smuggler abandoned ship. The Kurdish territory you speak of is frequently afflicted by war, including battles with ISIL, so you appear to be arguing that he should have tried to escape the war by going back to it. Similar mistake to the one Richard Littlejohn made. Why does Kurdi’s decision to bring his family with him have to be ‘selfish’? Why not desperate? And you haven’t responded any more than anyone else has to the plausibility question I already highlighted; if he was being selfish, wouldn’t he have just sailed off on his own and left his family to struggle on in the refugee camps? That seems to be what you’re suggesting most of the other refugees have done, so make up your mind – is it selfish to take your family with you, or is it selfish to leave them behind?

      – 6) This is a strawman argument. Where did I say ISIL have a trained army? What they are is very well armed and supplied, with considerable numbers, and what’s more, by your own admission, they actually WANT the war and are quite prepared to die for their warped beliefs. If ordinary Syrians are prepared to defend against that, then all well and good. But those who are not, if they choose to leave instead, should be respected. They did NOT ask for this war, and they will struggle to have a positive impact in it anyway, so why should they be forced to fight it?

      Your argument amounts to saying that European Jews who fled the Holocaust should have stayed to die.

      – 7) Again, that’s just taking my words to a silly extreme. I said young males are likelier to reach Europe. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else dies on the way, they may just give up the journey after a while, or suffer injuries and have to end their journey early.

      – 8) “You suggest that the pictures of men with no women must be the result of biased media coverage.”

      No, I didn’t. I said that people who were sharing these pictures and videos on social media in a selective way to discredit the refugees are biased.

      “The underlying idea is correct but the left-wing anti-media bias is yours. The coverage has been almost exclusively heartstring pulling, highlighting the plight of FAMILIES at risk.”

      Only if you think the crisis has been happening for the last ten days or so. The crisis was almost completely ignored by the media for the first four years. But as I say, I wasn’t talking about the regular media coverage, I was talking about the xenophobes on social media.

      “You provides a link to ‘internet memes’, which are always produced by people with a bias of some sort, but don’t mention that we can simply Google for actual images of refugees arriving in Europe, see that overwhelmingly they are male and young, and click to follow the actual story linked to the image.”

      This is an illogical remark. If I were in denial, as you imply, about the high proportion of young males among the refugees, why would I have bothered explaining one of the reasons for that proportion?

      I find your analysis unconvincing.

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