On Friday, charities that help refugees saw a surge in donations across Europe as people shocked by the heart-rending images of Aylan Kurdi dug deep to help out.
As the International Olympic Committee launched an emergency two-million-euro ($2.2 million) fund, money flooded into the coffers of organizations working to help refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria and groups cancelled weekend events to donate cash instead.
"There is an enormous response from the public, the tide of indifference is shifting," Christian Peregrin, spokesman for the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station, told AFP. The group, working to help migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean from Libya, by Friday had received a record 600,000 euros since Aylan's photo went viral. "Before that, 10,000 euros in a day would have been a good day," he said.
In the Netherlands, which has so far remained largely indifferent to the crisis, little Aylan's tragic fate has "served as a massive catalyst" to mobilize donations, a worker at the Dutch Refugee Council told AFP.
Since Aylan's pictures were published "there's been a whole change in attitude. Before there was quite a bit of fear over the arrival of refugees," the worker said, asking not to be named. "Now people are realizing that we have to do more." Jan-Willem Anholts, spokesman for the Dutch government's Central Asylum Seekers' Organ (COA), told AFP that its switchboard was so flooded with calls on Thursday they had to bring in six extra workers.
"We have all been touched by the terrible news and the heartbreaking stories in the past few days," International Olympic President Thomas Bach said, as the IOC launched its fund. "Our thoughts are with the many refugees risking their lives and the lives of their families to escape danger." The UN refugee agency UNHCR said that since Thursday it has "received a hundred thousand dollars of unsolicited funding on our global donate page, which we are sure was largely due to the photo of the Syrian toddler," said spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.She added that in the past weeks there has been a surge in donations, even though the UNHCR and its partners say they remain hugely underfunded as they grapple with the growing crisis.
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