Three Years On: Has Anything Changed Since the Death of Alan Kurdi?

Three years ago today, the lifeless body of the three-year old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, was found washed up on a Turkish beach after he and his family tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. Within just 12 hours, the image of the toddler had spread across 20 million screens around the world, highlighting the horrendous human cost of the global refugee crisis.

A symbol of the plight of the thousands of people fleeing conflict in Syria and elsewhere, Alan’s tragic death laid bare the consequences of the refusal on behalf of European governments to provide safe routes for people to enable them to reach safety, and once there, to support them effectively in rebuilding their lives.

Positive change?

Momentarily, the image seemed to transform the debate on migration, catalysing a temporary shift in the international response to refugees. In the UK for example, in the weeks after Alan’s image went viral, the government announced that 20,000 Syrians would be resettled, and there was a surge in public donations to charities working with refugees and asylum seekers.

However, this initial generosity soon subsided and the displays of moral outrage faded away. Now, as we approach 2019, the treatment of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers is, in many respects, worse than in 2015. The number of people dying as they attempt to reach Europe has increased – this year, 25 in every 1,000 people were reported lost; and the UK has still not fulfilled its resettlement quota. The Dubs Amendment – which the government established in 2016 to relocate and support unaccompanied refugee children – only accepted 350 unaccompanied minors before being closed completely, and in July the high court ruled that the UK government had acted “unfairly and unlawfully” in the process to assess 2,000 refugee children who had applied for safe passage to the UK.

Those people who do make it to the UK face a different set of challenges. There are cuts to legal aid for migrants; endless charter flight removals; and the Home Office continues to indefinitely detain innocent and vulnerable people while their asylum claims are being assessed. Meanwhile, the government’s draconian and dystopian ‘hostile environment’ policy is permeating our society and public services, forcing doctors, nurses, teachers, the police, as well as landlords and members of the public, to act as border guards and undertake immigration enforcement. The real-life impact of this is a new-born baby having to prove its eligibilityfor free healthcare; migrants being reported to the Home Office by the very MPs who are meant to represent them; a rough sleeper asking for help from a homeless charity, only to be deported; or a survivor of a fire being too frightened to access the emergency medical care they require.

The government’s deliberate, purposeful propagation of an inherently discriminatory policy institutionalises profiling, prejudice and racism, and feeds public suspicion of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Migrants are villainised in public discourse – including being blamed for the weaknesses within our public services and used to justify attacks on welfare and the dismantling of the NHS– and the debate on immigration focuses on numbers, not lives; makes misleading and unfounded connections with terrorism; and endlessly hovers around nebulous concerns over supposedly-conflicting “values.”

As politicians and the media peddle divisive rhetoric, inscribing and fuelling toxic anti-immigration sentiment, and right-wing nationalism and bigotry spreads, attacks on migrants are intensifying. The Brexit referendum of 2016 resulted in the highest level of racist and xenophobic hate crimes ever recorded in the UK.

The List

A recent, shameful manifestation of this type of incident was the destruction of a list of dead migrants that had been displayed as part of an arts festival on the streets of Liverpool. The names of the 34,361 men, women and children who have perished trying to reach Europe since 1993 has been ripped down twice in little over the course of a month, repeatedly damaged, removed, and targeted since its installation in July. As Charlotte Higgins writes in The Guardian, it is hard to imagine the failure of compassion that would impel anyone to do this – the sombre catalogue of names asks nothing of passersby other than it should be seen.

We cannot fail to understand the symbolism behind the destruction of the list of dead migrants. And just as it should be impossible to ignore the mounting deaths in the Mediterranean’s watery grave, the lives lost in the muddy refugee camps of northern France, and the people killed under shiny Eurostar carriages headed for Folkestone, so we cannot look the other away about the treatment of migrants on our own soil.

That’s why today, on the anniversary of Alan Kurdi’s death, we are not only sharing the full List of the migrants and refugees known to have died attempting to find a new home in Europe, but we have also extracted and published below the details of the people who have died here in the UK, amongst our midst, since arriving on our shores.

Since so many deaths go undocumented, the toll in the overall List is undoubtedly far higher than the the 34,361 names recorded. And, of course, neither list can accurately capture the different type of suffering experienced by those that survive.

  • January 2018: Woman, name and country of origin unknown: Died of illness, working in Great Britain without papers and too afraid of deportation to see a doctor.
  • November 2017: Arim Bakar, from Iraq: Committed suicide at Morton Hall detention centre while on suicide watch
  • September 2017: Man, name unknown, from China: Died at Dungavel detention centre
  • April 2017: Mohammed Hassan, aged 17, from Iraq: crushed when the ruck he had been clinging to reversed over him in Banbury, Oxfordshire
  • December 2016: Bai Ahmed Kabia, from Sierra Leone: Died in hospital of untreated illness after being held in detention for two years at Morton Hall
  • December 2016: Tarek Chowdhury, from Bangladesh: Died in hospital after assault at Colbrook removal centre
  • August 2016: Arkadiusz Jozwik, from Poland: Attacked in the street by teens who heard him speaking Polish; died in hospital in Cambridge
  • April 2016: Unknown individual: stow-away, crushed under a truck after reaching Great Britain from Dunkirk
  • April 2016: Mohammed Hussain, aged 18, from Kurdistan: stow-away, crushed under a truck after reaching Great Britain from Dunkirk
  • October 2015: Mohammad Akram, aged 22, from Afghanistan: Hit by van and then car on M20 in Kent
  • April 2015: Man, name not known, from India: Died of heart attack while detained at Yarl’s Wood removal centre
  • September 2014: Rubel Ahmed, 26, from Bangladesh: Committed suicide, hanged himself in his cell at Morton Hall detention centre
  • August 2014: Meet Singh Kapoor, from Afghanistan; body found among stow-aways in a shipping container at Royal Tilbury Docks
  • July 2014: Ahmed Osman, aged 17, from Eritrea: Stow-way, hit by a bus at a depot in Bexwell which he had been hiding in since Calais
  • February 2014: Two men, names unknown, from Albania: Reportedly drowned after jumping off a North Sea ferry near Harwich, Essex, while being deported from Great Britain
  • March 2013: Khalid Shahzad, from Pakistan: Died after being released from Colnbrook removal centre; left to travel alone despite poor health
  • October 2012: Prince Kwabena Fosu, from Ghana: Died of unknown causes in Hamondsworth removal centre
  • August 2012: Man, name and nationality unknown: Stow-away, found in landing bay of plane at Heathrow Airport after flight from South Africa
  • July 2012: Bee Moyo, from Zimbabwe: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Rotherham Park after his residence application was rejected
  • July 2012: Bernard Hukwa, from Zimbabwe: Committed suicide in the River Thames, while waiting for his asylum claim to be processed
  • August 2011: Man, name and nationality unknown: Committed suicide, hanged hiself in a shower at Campsfield House removal centre in London
  • July 2011: Muhammad Shukat, from Pakistan: Died from a heart attack after medical neglet in Colnbrook removal centre, Harmondsworth
  • October 2010: Jimmy Mubenga, from Angola: Died of cardiac arrest on a deportation flight from London
  • July 2010: Osman Rasul, from Iraq: Jumped from a balcony in Nottingham after failing to find a solicitor for his asylum appeal
  • May 2010: Alan Rasoul Ahmed, from Iraq: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Liverpoool while waiting on his asylum decision
  • April 2010: Eliud Nguli Nyenze,from Kenya: Died after being denied medical attention at Oakington immigration detention centre
  • March 2010: Serge, Tatiana, and Stefan Serykh: Committed suicide, the family jumped from the 15th floor of a building in Glasgow after their asylum claim was rejected
  • November 2009: Jianping Liu, from China: Jumped from a bridge near Heathrow after police questioned her about her immigration status
  • October 2009: Mohammed Iqbal Safi, aged 18, from Afghanistan: Humped in the River Thames after police questioning in custody for immigration offences
  • September 2009: Hassan Rahimi, a boy from Afghanistan: Committed suicide, unaccompanied minor hanged himself in London out of fear of eviction
  • August 2009: Jasraj Singh Kataria, 20 month-old child: Fell from third floor window of poor accommodation in Glasgow provided by a government contractor
  • September 2009: Frank Odama, from Ghana: Died after falling from the third floor of a tower block raided by police and immigration officials in Essex
  • September 2008: Man, name not known, from Zimbabwe: Died of tuberculosis following medical neglect at Colnbrook removal centre
  • September 2008: Baj Singh, from India: Crushed by a truck in Trent Vale after hiding under the wheel
  • August 2008: Mohammad Hussain, from Iraq: Died of cancer after medical neglect in Lindholme removal centre
  • May 2008: Lucy Kirma, nationality unknown: Died after a hunger strike in asylum seekers’ accommodation in Great Britain after being denied asylum
  • March 2008: Alfredo Castano-Fuentes, from Ghana: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Petonville Prison after being sentenced for having a fake passport
  • March 2008: Ama Sumani, from Ghana: Died from cancer in Ghana after being deported from hospital in Great Britain after her visa expired
  • February 2008: Barhan Ahmed, from Iraq: Committed suicide, set himself on fire in Nelson after suffering depression when his asylum claim was rejected
  • February 2008: Mohammed Ahmed, aged 18, from Iraq: Died from a heart condition in hospital in Gloucestershire while waiting for clarification on his immigration status
  • December 2007: Abdullah ‘Joker’ Idris, aged 18, from Sudan: Committed suicide, by hanging himself in his prison cell in Chelmsford while facing deportation
  • November 2007: Avtar Singh, from India: Committed suicide while in Canterbury Prison for holding a fake passport
  • October 2007: Shaukat Ali, from Pakistan: Committed suicide, hanged himself at his home in Birkby after his asylum claim was rejected
  • October 2007: Individual unknown: Committed suicide, lay down under a train in Great Britain after losing his job and having his asylum claim rejected
  • September 2007: Solyman Rashed, from Iraq: Killed by a roadside bomb in Kirkuq, Irq, after being deported from Great Britain after his asylum claim was rejected
  • May 2007: Conrad Dixon, from Jamaica: Committed suicide, set fire to himself in Stoke-on-Trent after his claim for asylum was rejected
  • March 2007: Uddhav Bhandari, from Nepal: Committed suicide, set fire to himself in Glasgow out of fear of deportation
  • January 2007: Abass Usman, from Nigeria: Committed suicide, hanged himself in his cell in HM Prison Preston after being accused of using false documents
  • January 2007: Imran Yousaf, from Pakistan: Committed suicide, hanged himself at a friend’s house after being denied a visa extension
  • October 2006: Abdullah Ahmed Maroof, from Iraq: Committed suicide, set himself on fire in his car in Stockton out of fear of being sent back to Iraq
  • August 2006: Zamira Sadigova, from Azerbaijan: Jumped from her 11thfloor apartment in Knightswood for fear of deporation
  • August 2oo6: Pierre Palmaba Kabamba, from Congo: Jumped out of a fifth floor window of an induction centre for asylum seeker sin Margate
  • June 2006: Dejere Kebede-Tulu, from Ethiopia: Championship runner found dead in his flat in London; very poor living conditions possible cause of death
  • May 2006: Ese Eliabeth Alabi, from Nigeria: Died in Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being denied a heart transplant due to her nationality. Mother of three.
  • May 2006: Sivanathan Gowthaman, from Sri Lanka: Jumped under a train in Bedhampton after losing his work permit and having his asylum claim rejected
  • March 2006: Naser Al Shdaida, from Syria: Committed suicide, lay down under a train in London out of fear of deportation after his asylum claim was rejected
  • February 2006: Yadav Krishnakumar, child from Sri Lanka: Died of dehydration and lack of medical aid in Fairfield Hospital
  • February 2006: Taufik Al-Karazeh, from Syria: Commited suicide, hanged himself in his home in Rochdale out of fear of deporation
  • January 2006: Salehdeim Fahssahi, from Algeria: Died after falling from a balcony at his home in Plumstead while attempting to escape the police
  • January 2006: Bereket Yohannes, from Eritrea: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Harmondsworth removal centre out of fear of deportation
  • November 2005: Lizwane Ndlovu, from Zimbabwe: Died in Birmingham hospital after release from Yarl’s Wood removal centre
  • October 2005: Suleiman Dialo, from Guinea: Committed suicide, asylum seeker suffering from depression
  • September 2005: Manual Bravo, from Angola: Committed suicide, hanged himself at Yarl’s Wood removal centre to prevent deportation of his son
  • September 2005: Edmore Ngwenya, ages 26, from Zimbabw: Committed suicide, found drowned at Salford Quays, Manchester
  • July 2005: Babak Ahadi, from Iran: Committed suicide, set fire to himself at an accommodation centre in Bristol out of fear of deportation
  • July 2005: Nusrat Raza, aged 22, from Pakistan: Committed suicide, set herself on fire in Bradford after losing asylum appeal
  • June 2005: Ramazan Kumluca, aged 19, from Turkish Kurdistan: Committed suicide, hanged himself at Campsfield House removal centre after his third asylum claim was rejected
  • April 2005: Limbaya Ndinga, from Congo: Committed suicide, hanged himself at his home in Middleton after his asylum claim was rejected
  • February 2005: Vincent Shem, from Ghana: Committed suicide, found hanged with bed sheet in Wandsworth prison, facing deportation
  • December 2004: Razgar Rassool Hamad, aged 24, from Iraq: Died of hypothermia in West Bromwich, his body found outside abandoned factory
  • December 2004: Hemen Mahmood Faqia, from Iraq: Drowned in the Tyne River after agreeing to voluntary repatriation
  • November 2004: Kenny Peter, aged 24, from Nigeria: Died in hospital from injuries from possible suicide attempt, jumped from second floor of Colnbrook removal centre
  • October 2004: John Kanau Manana, aged 24, from Kenya: Committed suicide, found hanged in his cell at Leicester prison
  • October 2004: Majid Rafieei, from Iran: committed suicide, found hanged at home in Sheffield after his asylum claim was rejected
  • September 2004: Ceife Yimene, aged 24, from Ethiopia: Committed suicide, hanged himself in emergency accommodation in Newcastle
  • September 2004: Kalan Kawa Karim, from Iraqi Kurdistan: Died in hospital after a racially motivated assault outside a pub in Swansea
  • August 2004: Ako Mahmood Ahmed, aged 25, from Iraqi Kurdistan: Committed suicide, jumped off a bridge in Coventry shopping centre after his asylum claim was rejected
  • July 2004: Tung Tran Quang, aged 23, from Vietnam: Committed suicide, hanged himself near Dungavel detention centre after being denied an interpreter
  • July 2004: Sergey Barnuyck, from Ukraine: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Harmondsworth removal centre out of fear of deportation
  • June 2004: Hussein Nasseri, aged 26, from Iran: Shot himself in his car in Eastbourne after his asylum claim was rejected; feared execution in Iran for being gay
  • June 2004: Individual unknown: Committed suicide, hanged himself in refugee housing facility in Great Britain, police refused to reveal details
  • May 2004: Azrar Ayub, aged 24, nationality unknown: Died alone in psychiatric custody in Prestwich hospital after being sedated and restrained by hospital staff
  • May 2004: Zekria Ghulam Moham, from Afghanistan: Committed suicide, hanged himself in his flat in Glasgow when faced with eviction
  • May 2004: Kebba ‘Dobo’ Jobe, from Gambia: Died while being arrested in London
  • May 2004: Kabeya Dimuka Bijoux, from Congo: Died in Haslar removal centre in Gosport of injures sustained during arrest
  • May 2004: Man, name and nationality unknown: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Barlinnie, Scotland out of fear of deportation
  • April 2004: Shahid Aziz, aged 25, from Asia: Reportedly killed by racist cellmate at Armley prison in Leeds
  • March 2004: Kingsley Williamson, from Jamaica: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Norwich prison while awaiting deportation
  • January 2004: Man, name unknown, from Iraq: Committed suicide, set himself on fire in London out of fear of deportation
  • November 2003: Liange He, aged 23, nationality unknown: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Bedford prison
  • November 2003: Paul Yorke, nationality unknown: Found dead in his cell in a police station at Heathrow
  • November 2003: Individual unknown, from Russia: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Polmont Prison out of fear of deportation
  • October 2003: Mohammed Bin Duhri, aged 20, from Palestine: Commited suicide, hanged himself at maximum security prison in Belmarsh
  • September 2003: Tema Kombe, from Uganda: Committed suicide, hanged himself in the bathroom of a psychiatric ward at Heatherwood Hospital
  • September 2003: Israfi Shriri, from Iran: Committed suicide, set himself on fire after being denied necessary medication in Manchester
  • September 2003: Vasilily Todchuk, aged 24, from Russia: Committed suicide, hanged himself at a building site in Govan, Glasgow
  • July 2003: Elmas Ozmico, from Turkey: Died due to septicaemia and medical neglect at a hospital in Dover
  • July 2003: Faizullah Ahmedi, aged 19, from Afghanistan: Committed suicide, hanged himself at his home in Blackburn while awaiting a decision on his asylum claim
  • May 2003: Olga Blaskevica, aged 29, from Latvia: Murdered in Harmondsworth removal centre while awaiting deportation
  • January 2003: Mikhail Bognarchuk, from Ukraine: Committed suicide, hanged himself with his shoelaces in a bathroom at Haslar removal centre in Gosport
  • December 2002: Sirous Khajehb, from Iran: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Huddersfield after being wrongly informed that his asylum claim had been rejected
  • November 2002: Boy aged 12, name not known, from Ghana: Stow-away, found frozen at Heathrow airport in undercarriage of airplane from Ghana
  • November 2002: Immanual Duah, aged 12, from Ghana: Stow-away, found frozen at Heathrow airport in undercarriage of airplane from Ghana
  • October 2002: Beverely Fowler, from Jamaica: Committed suicide, hanged herself in Durham prison out of fear of deportation
  • September 2002: Peiman Bahmani, aged 29, from Iran: Stabbed to death on the street he lived on in Hendon
  • May 2002: Shira Pir, aged 25, from Pakistan: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Bristol after his asylum claim was rejected
  • March 2002: Mohsen Amri, aged 27, from Iran: Committed suicide in Birmingham after his asylum claim was rejected
  • February 2002: Nariman Tahmasebi, aged 27, from Iran: Committed suicide, hanged himself in prision in Lewes
  • November 2001: Joseph Crentsil, from Ghana: Fell from the third floor of a building in London as immigration officers attempted to detain him
  • November 2001: Ricky Bishop, aged 25, nationality unknown: Died in police custody in Brixton after being arrested and assaulted
  • August 2001: Nasser Ahmed, from Eritrea: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Neslon after his asylum claim was rejected
  • June 2001: Mohammed Ayaz, from Pakistan: Stow-away, fell into a car park in Richomnd from the wheel bay of an airplane travelling to Britain
  • January 2001: Shokrolah Khaleghi, aged 27, from Iran: Committed suicide, hanged himself in an asylum hostel in Leicester after his asylum claim was rejected
  • December 2000: Saeed Alaei, aged 26, from Iran: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Nelson, Lancashire, after his asylum claim was rejected
  • November 2000: Individual unknown: Stow-away, run over in Dover by the truck he had been hiding in
  • March 2000: Zahid Mubarek, aged 19, from Pakistan: Fatally attacked in HM Prison Feltham, two days before his release, after being placed in a cell with a known violent racist
  • January 2000: Robertus Gabys, from Lithuania: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Harmonsworth removal centre out of fear of deportation
  • October 1999: Individual name and nationality unknown: Stow-away, electrocuted while trying to exit a freight train in Wembley
  • August 1999: Man, name unknown, from Iraqi Kurdistan: Stow-away, crushed to death in Dover while hanging onto the underside of a truck
  • December 1998: Lin Yan-Guang, from China: Committed suicide in Brentwood, asylum seeker suffering depression
  • October 1998: Mehretab Kidane, from Eritrea: Committed suicide, hanged himself on the day of his final asylum appeal hearing in London
  • July 1998: Sofonias Alemseged, aged 22, from Eritrea: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Brixton Prison
  • April 1997: Peter San Pedro, aged 25, nationality unknown: Walked onto highway after his vision was damaged during his in arrest in Kent by police who were suspicious about his legal status in the UK
  • January 1997: Herbert Gabbidon, from Jamaica: Died in police custody in Walsall as efforts were being made to deport him
  • March 1996: Ibrahim Sey, aged 29, from Gambia: Died after being teargassed while handcuffed at a police station in London
  • March 1996: Noorjahan Begum, from Bangladesh: Fell from the balcony of her home while fleeing immigration officers
  • October 1995: Djemal Fissa, aged 29, from Algeria: Died after 44 days on hunger strike, tied to stretcher in an air ambulance deportation from Great Britain to Algeria
  • October 1995: Bayeh Arefayne, aged 19, from Ethiopia: Committed suicide, set himself on fire in London after his asylum application was rejected
  • July 1995: Muttavel Vasananthan, aged 25, from Sri Lanka: Committed suicide, hanged himself in Norwich prision
  • February 1995: Valentine Featherstone, from Latvia: Committed suicide in County Durham out of fear of mother’s deportation
  • January 1995: Zinaida Mitzofanova, from Latvia: Committed suicide in Country Durham out of fear of deportation
  • December 1994: Shiji Lapita, from Nigeria: Suffocated after being put in a headlock during an arrest by London police
  • October 1994: Joseph Nnalue, from Nigeria: Died after falling from the fourth floor of a building in London during an immigration raid
  • April 1994: Kwanele Eldah Siziba, aged 28, from Zimbabwe: Fell to her death in Islington, London, while fleeling police out of fear of deportation
  • 1994: Lejla Ibrahimovic, from Bosnia: Committed suicide in Birmingham after the Home Office refused to grant her husband a visa; had two children
  • 1993: Kimpua Nsimba, aged 24, from DRC: Committed suicide, found hanged in detention centre five days after arriving in Great Britain

What you can do

Migrants Organise is working to build a national movement of powerful and experienced migrant, refugee, and BME community leaders, who together can make significant, systemic changes in migration-related policies, practices, and attitudes at local, regional, and national levels. You can support them through the following:

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