Young boy found lying face-down on a beach near Turkish resort of Bodrum was one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach Greece
• Warning: this article contains images that readers may find distressing
The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.
The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum.
A second image portrays a grim-faced policeman carrying the tiny body away. Within hours it had gone viral becoming the top trending picture on Twitter under the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik (humanity washed ashore).
Greek authorities, coping with what has become the biggest migration crisis in living memory, said the boy was among a group of refugees escaping Islamic State in Syria.
Turkish officials, corroborating the reports, said 12 people died after two boats carrying a total of 23 people, capsized after setting off separately from the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula. Among the dead were five children and a woman. Seven others were rescued and two reached the shore in lifejackets but hopes were fading of saving the two people still missing.
The casualties were among thousands of people, mostly Syrians, fleeing war and the brutal occupation by Islamic fundamentalists in their homeland.
The Greek island of Kos, facing Turkey’s Aegean coast, has become a major magnet for people determined to reach Europe. An estimated 2,500 refugees, also believed to be from Syria, landed on Lesvos on Wednesday in what local officials described as more than 60 dinghies and other “unseaworthy” vessels.
Some 15,000 refugees are currently in Lesvos (otherwise known as Mytilini) awaiting passage on cruise ship to Athens’ port of Pireaus before continuing their odyssey northwards to the Balkan state of Macedonia and up through Serbia to Hungary and Germany.
Wednesday’s dead were part of a grim toll of some 2,500 people who have died this summer attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.