An image of a drowned toddler washed up on the beach in one of Turkey’s prime tourist resorts swept across social media Wednesday, after at least 12 presumed Syrian refugees died trying to reach the Greek island of Kos.
A little boy wearing a bright red T-shirt and shorts is shown lying facedown in the surf on a beach near the resort town of Bodrum. In a second image, a grim-faced policeman carries the tiny body away.
The hashtag “KiyiyaVuranInsanlik” – “humanity washed ashore” – became the top trending topic on Twitter after the picture was retweeted heavily.
The two boats, carrying a total of 23 people, had set off separately from the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula, a senior Turkish naval official said.
The confirmed dead included five children and one woman. Seven people were rescued and two reached the shore in lifejackets. The official said hopes were fading of saving the two people still missing.
Images showed the lifeless body of a small boy lying facedown in the sand in Bodrum, one of Turkey’s most popular beach resorts.
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, their gateway to the EU.
The official said almost 100 people in all had been rescued by Turkish vessels overnight as they tried to reach Kos.
Aid agencies estimate that, over the past month, about 2,000 people a day have been making the short crossing to Greece’s eastern islands on rubber dinghies.
“The harrowing image that shows the true tragedy of the refugee crisis,” read a headline in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, while the Guardian said the photo “brought home” the horror of the situation.
“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?” The Independent said. The Huffington Post’s U.K. edition said: “Do Something, David” – a reference to Prime Minister David Cameron who has pursued a hard line against migrant arrivals.
The image appeared on the website of Spain’s El Pais, El Mundo and El Periodico, which titled the photo “The drowning of Europe.” In Italy, the La Repubblica daily tweeted the image saying: “One photo to silence the world.”
A ship bringing about 1,800 migrants and refugees from one of the islands arrived at the port of Piraeus near Athens Tuesday night, the Greek coastguard said. Thousands of people, mainly Africans, have also been trying to reach Europe via boat from Libya to Italy.
UNHCR said four bodies had been pulled from the central Mediterranean Tuesday and 781 migrants rescued, mostly from Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal. So far this year, more than 2,500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, the UNHCR said.
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