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'Graveyard of life jackets' in London highlights refugee crisis

Watch now: Volunteers displayed life jackets, including hundreds used by children [Video:AFP/Image:Getty]

Date of publication: 19 September, 2016

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Video: London's Parliament Square was transformed into a ‘graveyard of life jackets’ worn by people crossing the sea into Europe, to help raise awareness of the ongoing plight refugees face.
A group of charities created a display of life jackets, worn by refugees, outside the Parliament in London to highlight the plight of those fleeing war and conflict.

Volunteers laid out 2,500 life jackets, including 625 which had been used by children. The display was created to raise the profile of the UN summit in New York and place pressure on the UK government to do more to help refugees. 
  
"This event is a shocking reminder of what too many people have to go through to be safe again,” Alex Ntung, from Migrant Help UK, told The New Arab.

"It shows the real-life experience of a refugee from their view-point – they have worn these life jackets.

"For many people, this is a personal experience, it's not just symbolic – lots of people lived with violence, lost many members of their family and had to flee for safety. These life jackets help you see their experience."

The life jackets were used by real refugees in the crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Chios and many are of little use in the water as they were made of cheap materials by people smugglers. 
For many people, this is a personal experience, it's not just symbolic – lots of people lived with violence, lost many members of their family and had to flee for safety. These life jackets help you see their experience
Shahd Abusalama, a refugee journalist from Gaza who was at Parliament Square, said: "Seeing all these life jackets is just horrifying and heart-breaking when you realise that so many of them belonged to children.

"I have so many friends who were desperate enough to travel through deadly routes in order to come seek asylum in a safe country.

“Who would bring a child through that if they were not living in intolerable conditions?”

The UN summit, titled Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants started on Monday, but was criticised by human rights groups before it even began.
Seeing all these life jackets is just horrifying and heart-breaking when you realise that so many of them belonged to children
More than 600 of those life jackets belonged to children [Getty]
Many believe that there is not enough political will to make a resolute change and that not enough is being done to help the estimated 65 million refugees around the world.

Sanj Srikanthan, a director at the IRC told The New Arab that the UK government needed to do more to take in its ‘fair share’ of refugees.

"We are calling on the UK government to up its commitment and take in more refugees. At the moment, they have agreed to take in 20,000 over five years, which is just four thousand a year – six refugees per parliamentary constituency," said Srikanthan.

"We want them to increase this to 25,000 per year, which sounds like a lot, but it is really only seven refugees per constituency, per year – that's not a lot at all.

“We're talking helping the neediest people in the world – the elderly, the children, the orphans and the sick. We need a commitment to take in more refugees – to take in our fair share.”

The London event was supported by a number of refugee charities, including UNHCR, World Vision, Doctors Without Borders and the International Refugee Committee (IRC) and many refugees also came to voice their opinions.

Rahela Sidiqi, a refugee activist from Afghanistan, said: “I think that world leaders need to put on their glasses and really look at the injustice of this situation.

"They need to recognise the dignity of the human being and act now to support refugees. We, the people, need to hold them to account for the decisions that they are currently making."

According to the UN, 6940 refugees died crossing the Mediterranean between January 2015 and August 2016 – an average of 11 people a day over the last twelve months.

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