Two very upsetting images that reflect the harsh realities of Syrian migrants have recently gone viral. The first is of a little boy lying face down on a beach near Turkey’s resort town Bodrum, and the second is of a policeman carrying him away from the surf. The Turkish phrase Kiyiya vuran insanlik – or, “humanity washed ashore” – started trending on Twitter after the public release of these photographs.
Approximately 350,000 migrants have attempted to reach Europe by boat since January this year, according to stats that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released on Tuesday. The IOM also disclosed that over 2,600 migrants had drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in the same time frame. This week, the Turkish government said that its coastguard had rescued over 42,000 migrants in the Aegean Sea from January – May 2015, and over 2,160 last week alone.
According to the Turkish coastguard, 23 Syrian migrants left from the Bodrum peninsula early Wednesday morning in two boats, with the intention of reaching the Greek island of Kos. However, the boats sank, and 12 bodies have since been recovered. Officials have stated that the boy in the pictures is three years old, and is called Aylan. His father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived, but his five-year-old brother, Galip, and mother, Rihan, also drowned. It is said that Aylan’s family and the rest of the migrants were from the war-torn town of Kobane, and had fled to Turkey last year to escape the Islamic State (IS) group. Apparently, Aylan’s family had applied for refugee status in Canada, but their application was turned down.
Abdullah was reportedly kidnapped and tortured during the IS siege of Kobane. His sister, Teema Kurdi, who lives in Vancouver, told the National Post that she had been trying to help them leave the Middle East. She stated: “I was trying to sponsor them […] but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat.” Indeed, the family had no other option because they did not have passports, and Syrian Kurdish refugees in Turkey can’t obtain exit visas without them.
A local fisherman discovered the body on the shore, and said: “I came to the sea and I was scared. My heart is broken.” This is said to the first time that a body has washed up on this particular beach. However, debris, including deflated dinghy parts and the personal belongings of migrants who had attempted to cross, can usually be found strewn across the sand.
Justin Forsyth, chief executive of the charity Save the Children, commented that the images of Aylan serve as a reminder of “the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life”. He added: “This child’s plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis.”
People are taking to Twitter to express their sadness and outrage over the situation: