MIGRANT MISERY: The body of a young migrant, believed to be from Syria, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum on September 2, 2015 following a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos. Picture: Reuters
Two years ago an image of a boy in a red T-shirt, face down on a Mediterranean beach, brought home the full horror of the humanitarian crisis unfolding on Europe’s shores.

Alan Kurdi, from the Syrian town of Kobani, was three years old when he, together with his mother and his elder brother, drowned on the dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greece.

While the crisis was not news, it briefly seemed that the international outcry might shock world leaders into action.

However, within months of Alan’s death, many governments went ahead with policies designed to keep Syrian and other refugees out. The EU devised a shameful deal under which those who risked their lives would be sent back to Turkey; Australia continued to lock refugees up in detention centres.

Equitable responsibility sharing of refugees by the world’s wealthiest governments remains, in practice, non-existent. Meanwhile the deaths continue, with more than 2000 dying in the first half of this year alone.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Global Shapers Annual Survey 2017, by the World Economic Forum, showed that most (73 percent) of 18-35-year olds say they would welcome refugees into their countries, and more than a quarter (27 percent) say they would take refugees into their homes.

The figures echo a similar study by Amnesty International last year, which showed that four in five people say they would welcome refugees to their countries.

It would be a tragedy to let this powerful public empathy go to waste. The challenge is to find ways to harness it.

One country where Alan’s death had a lasting impact was Canada, where millions saw his death as a reflection of political failure.

It turned out Alan’s aunt lived in Canada, and a family resettlement application from the Kurdi family had failed.

After news of Alan’s death hit the media, Canadians were demanding a response to the crisis - and thousands of them proved that they were willing to play a part.

Justin Trudeau’s election victory in October 2015 was achieved partly on the back of an election pledge to increase the number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees arriving in Canada.

Between November 2015 and late January this year more than 14000 Syrians were resettled under private sponsorship schemes.

Canada has gained a reputation for being “immigrant-friendly”. But it does not need to be unique.

Ordinary citizens are able to take the initiative, showing the humanity that has been all-too lacking in the responses of world leaders. Governments should support people in their efforts to open their communities to refugees.

* Charmain Mohamed

Head of Refugee and Migrants Rights, Amnesty International