ISTANBUL: Heart-rending pictures of a toddler’s lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach sparked horror on Wednesday as the cost of Europe’s growing refugee crisis hit home.
The images of a tiny child lying face down in the surf at one of Turkey’s main tourist resorts has 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 least 12 Syrians who died when their boats sank trying to reach Greece.
The bleak image spread like lightning through social media and dominated front pages from Spain to Sweden, 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.
“Tiny victim of a human catastrophe,” said 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 the continent.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council said it was discussing a draft resolution to address the crisis that diplomats said might allow an EU naval force to seize ships operated by migrant smugglers in international waters.
More than 350,000 people have made the perilous journey from North Africa to Europe this year, many trafficked by people smugglers from war-torn Libya, where nearly 3,000 migrants were rescued Wednesday close to the coast.
Calls for change
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.
In Hungary, which has been on the frontline of the huge wave of new arrivals, scuffles broke out between police and swelling crowds of migrants, numbering some 2,000, who had been prevented from boarding trains at Budapest’s main international station.
There have been several tense encounters between the crowds and police following Hungary’s decision to prevent migrants traveling west on Tuesday, after several thousand boarded trains bound for Austria and Germany the previous day.
‘Europe’s paltry response’
The situation is also becoming increasingly desperate on Europe’s sea borders after a dramatic spike in the numbers of migrants leaving Turkey by sea for Greece over the past week, among them the tiny toddler whose death has caused such outrage.
A rescue worker from Bodrum identified the boy as Aylan Kurdi to AFP. Media reports said he was three years old.
The toddler was one of at least 12 Syrian migrants who died, five of whom were children, including five-year-old brother Galip. Another 15 people were rescued.
The Syrians “almost certainly died as they tried to reach safety in Europe by boarding a smuggler’s boat,” said Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s director of emergencies.
“Instead they ended up as the latest victims of Europe’s paltry response in the face of a growing crisis,” he wrote in an acerbic article.