Syrian child's death ignites calls for action

Images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who washed ashore on a beach, spread through social media on Wednesday and dominated front pages of newspapers.
Images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who washed ashore on a beach, spread through social media on Wednesday and dominated front pages of newspapers. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Boy's body washes ashore at Turkish resort

ISTANBUL • Heartrending photographs of a toddler's lifeless body washed ashore on a beach in Turkey have sparked horror as the cost of Europe's growing refugee crisis hits home.

The images of a child lying face down in the surf at Bodrum district's Aegean resort, one of Turkey's main tourist resorts, have once more put a human face on the dangers faced by tens of thousands of desperate people who risk life and limb to seek a new life in Europe.

Wearing a red T-shirt and blue shorts, the child - identified as three-year-old Aylan Kurdi - is believed to be one of at least 12 Syrians who died when their boats sank trying to reach Greece.

The bleak image spread like wildfire through social media on Wednesday and dominated front pages of newspapers, with commentators unanimous it had rammed home the horrors faced by those fleeing war and conflict in the Middle East and Africa.

Circulating with the Turkish hashtag "#KiyiyaVuranInsanlik" ("Humanity washed ashore"), the picture made it to Twitter's top world-trending topics.

NO WAY OUT

I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn't get them out, and that is why they went in the boat.

MS TEEMA KURDI, on her attempt to help her brother's family get to Canada

"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 the continent.

Four suspected human-traffickers have been arrested by the Turkish authorities over the deaths of the Syrian migrants, including Aylan. The four Syrian suspects, who are aged between 30 and 41, are accused of "causing the deaths of more than one person" and "trafficking migrants", the Dogan news agency reported.

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.

One of Aylan's relatives told a Canadian newspaper yesterday the family of the dead boy had been trying to emigrate to Canada after fleeing the war-torn Syrian town of Kobane to Turkey.

Aylan's five-year-old brother, Galip, and mother, Rehan, 35, also died after their boat capsized while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. His father, Mr Kurdi, was found semi-conscious and taken to a hospital near Bodrum, according to Turkey's Sabah newspaper.

Ms Teema Kurdi, Mr Kurdi's sister and a resident of Vancouver, Canada, said she had been contacted by a sister-in-law. "She got a call from Abdullah, and all he said was, 'My wife and two boys are dead,'" Ms Kurdi was quoted as saying by Canada's National Post newspaper.

Mr Kurdi and his family had made a privately sponsored refugee application to the Canadian authorities that was rejected in June because of complications with applications from Turkey.

"I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn't get them out, and that is why they went in the boat," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2015, with the headline 'Syrian child's death ignites calls for action'. Print Edition | Subscribe