A tragic photo of a three-year-old child who washed up on a Turkish beach has struck a nerve around the world and become a symbol of Europe’s refugee crisis.
The child, who fled Syria with his family for the safety of Europe, drowned with 11 others when the smuggler commanding their boat abandoned them in rough waters.
The child, his brother, and mother all drowned. Only the family’s father survived.
Photos of Aylan’s body lying face down on a Turkish beach were widely circulated on social media on Wednesday, escalating anger and frustration over the failure to help desperate families from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa fleeing war and mayhem.
Choking back emotion as he spoke, Mr. Kurdi described how he had flailed about while trying to find his children as his wife held onto the capsized boat.
“I started pushing them up to the surface so they could breathe,” he said. “I had to shift from one to another. I think we were in the water for three hours trying to survive.”
He watched helplessly as one exhausted child drowned, he said, then he pushed the other toward the mother, “so he could at least keep his head up.”
Mr. Kurdi then apologized, saying he could no longer speak, ending the conversation.
Turkish news agencies reported Thursday that the police had detained four Syrians suspected of involvement in arranging the passage of the boat that capsized with the Kurdi family. In all, 12 people drowned in the capsizing.
The BBC reports that more than 2,500 Middle Eastern and African refugees and migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this year trying to reach Italy and Greece:
The largest migrant group by nationality in 2015 is Syrians, as people flee the country’s brutal civil war.
Afghans and Eritreans come next. They are often also fleeing poverty and human rights abuses.
People from Nigeria and Kosovo also make up large groups. Poor, marginalised Roma account for many of the migrants from Kosovo.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes made the case “that the U.S. can take in many thousands of Syrian refugees and every presidential candidate should be forced to answer why we shouldn’t”:
Others responded to the heartbreaking image of the child, and the overall humanitarian crisis, on Twitter as well:
— amol rajan (@amolrajan) September 2, 2015
“If these powerful images of a dead Syrian child on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?” http://t.co/y09zkO4x8s
— David Miliband (@DMiliband) September 2, 2015
It bums me out that people think refugees should be accepted only if they share their values. Lives of people who are different have value. — Elise Foley (@elisefoley) September 3, 2015
Saying refugees should be accepted only if they’re like you is basically saying you think people who are different than you are worth less. — Elise Foley (@elisefoley) September 3, 2015
People are so afraid of the world changing that they don’t care if others die. That’s really sad. What a world. — Elise Foley (@elisefoley) September 3, 2015
When war is on the table, lots of voices in American politics make passionate moral arguments about the suffering of foreigners. — Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 2, 2015
But we don’t have to drop any bombs are send any troops to alleviate a lot of Syrian suffering by taking more refugees. Who’s gonna lead? — Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 2, 2015
the graph that shows the number of refugees in the world is intense. it just keeps going. https://t.co/7D5Azccob2
— Mario A. Carrillo (@_mariocarrillo_) September 3, 2015
When you see that drowned Syrian boy, you should see the United States’ shameful failure http://t.co/WAzAtYvwQN
— Amanda Taub (@amandataub) September 3, 2015
Austrian people are lining up waiting for Syrian refugees to help them and give them supplies. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/iauN0OWM8W
— TheLADbible (@TheLadBible) September 3, 2015
— NPA (@NPAction) September 3, 2015
11K Icelanders offer to take Syrian refugees into their homes, after government said it would accept only 50 people http://t.co/6eCe0i0LGf
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) September 3, 2015
The New York Times shared a harrowing account of two boats crammed with over 700 refugees and migrants, mostly all from Eritrea, attempting to cross the Mediterranean:
The smugglers squeezed passengers down into the boats’ 4-ft holds, where they could only lie flat as more people were forced on top of them. — The New York Times (@nytimes) September 3, 2015