The drowned toddler seen lying on a Turkish beach in a photo that sparked shock around the world on Thursday has been identified as three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose five-year-old brother Galip and mother Rehan also died when their boat capsized.
Images of Aylan, showing the little boy wearing a bright red T-shirt and shorts and lying face down in the surf on a beach near the resort town of Bodrum, went viral on social media and appeared on the front pages of newspapers in several countries.
Aylan and four more children were among at least 12 presumed Syrian refugees who died trying to reach the Greek island of Kos on Wednesday, BBC reported. Only nine of 23 people on board two boats survived. Aylan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, was among the survivors.
Aylan Kurdi with his five-year-old brother Galip. (Photo courtesy- @monaeltahawy on Twitter)
Turkish news agency Dogan reported Aylan and the rest of the group were Syrians from the besieged town of Kobane who fled to Turkey last year to escape advancing militants from the Islamic State (IS) group. The boy’s family reportedly sought asylum in Canada before attempting the journey to Greece.
Kobane, near the Turkish border, was the scene of heavy fighting between IS militants and Kurdish forces a few months ago.
Turkish media identified the drowned boy. The father’s relatives said his only wish was to return to Kobane with his dead wife and children, bury them, and be buried alongside them, Canada’s National Post newspaper reported.
Abdullah Kurdi’s sister Teema Kurdi said she learned of the drowning through a telephone call from Ghuson Kurdi, the wife of another brother, Mohammad.
"I heard the news at five o’clock in this morning," Kurdi told the National Post.
The Turkish hashtag "KiyiyaVuranInsanlik" – "humanity washed ashore" – became one of the top trending topics on Twitter. In the first few hours after the capsize, the image was retweeted thousands of times.
A toddler, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey. (Reuters Photo)
"Tiny victim of a human catastrophe," said the headline in Britain's Daily Mail, while Italy's La Repubblica tweeted the words: "One photo to silence the world."
"If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?" Britain's Independent said in remarks echoed in newspapers across Europe.
The Sun, which caused an outcry earlier this year when it published a column comparing migrants to "cockroaches", used its front page to urge Prime Minister David Cameron to act.
"It's life and death," read the front page. "Today The Sun urges David Cameron to help those in a life-and-death struggle not of their own making."
This summer, a quarter of a million people fled across the Mediterranean by small ships and rafts. Lured by smugglers and forced onto discarded fishing boats, the migrants were directed to head north and call for help when they were past Libya's Bouri oil fields and into international shipping lanes.
Citizens of Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Gambia, Somalia, Bangladesh and dozens of other countries simply hope they won't die as they head north in the dark. Some families buy pool floats to keep their children alive, some pay extra to sit on top, while others are crushed below, used as human ballast.
For those who can't afford passage on the Egyptian or Tunisian-sourced fishing boats, there are homemade rubber rafts.
Plywood floors often cut through the rubberized canvas, dumping the passengers into the ocean a few miles from shore. The migrants subject themselves to this life-threatening journey because there is no safe way out of their predicament.
They risk their lives at sea and they know they will also run the gauntlet of angry southern European nations if they do make it to land.
Tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the war in their homeland have descended on Turkey's Aegean coast this summer to board boats to Greece, their gateway to the European Union.
An official said almost 100 people in all had been rescued by Turkish vessels overnight as they tried to reach Greek island of Kos.
Aid agencies estimate that, over the past month, about 2,000 people a day have been making the short crossing to Greece's eastern islands on rubber dinghies.
So far this year, more than 2,500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, the UNHCR said.
The escalating migrant crisis has exposed deep divisions in the EU's policy, sparking friction between transit nations where the migrants arrive by sea or land and those where they hope to seek asylum, mainly in northern and western Europe.
(With inputs from AFP and Reuters)
Read:Images of drowned Syrian child spark horror over Europe migrant crisis