Warning: this article contains images that readers may find distressing
Heart-rending pictures of a toddler’s lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach sparked horror as the cost of Europe’s burgeoning refugee crisis hit home.
The images of a 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, 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi from the Kurdish-Syrian city of Kobane was believed to be one of at least 12 Syrians trying to reach Greece who died when their boats sank.
The body of his 5-year-old brother, Galip, washed up on another part of the beach.
“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.
The Turkish coastguard said two boats had sunk after separately setting off from its Bodrum peninsula for the Greek Aegean island of Kos early on Wednesday.
Among the dead were five children and a woman, while 15 others were rescued, the coastguard said.
The pictures, which were widely shared on social media, triggered an outpour of angry reactions.
Some were demanding immediate action from their governments to help refugees, others were scolding fellow Facebook users for posting the images, saying they were too intrusive or confronting.
The pictures also prompted vigorous debate inside newsrooms on the ethics of showing graphic images of dead children.
Imagine being a family member left behind- a Syrian father hoping to join his baby in safe EU only to see his image circling for cheap hits
— Dima S. ديمة (@YasminWaQahwa) September 2, 2015
Yet, many said the pictures needed to be seen.
How often it takes a terrible but iconic image to spark the world into action. Let this be it. https://t.co/O10XLW6UBS
— Rob Simpson (@robasimpson) September 2, 2015
“Do Something, David” said the Huffington Post’s UK edition in a direct appeal to British Prime Minister David Cameron who has accepted a lower number of asylum seekers in proportion to its population than most other EU countries.
As Europeans reeled once again at the human cost of the biggest movement of people since World War II, top diplomats from France, Italy and Germany urged a rethink of European rules on asylum to allow for a fairer distribution of refugees throughout the 28-member bloc.
The call came as tensions soared between European states over how to tackle the huge influx of refugees, as thousands more arrived on the Greek mainland where more than 160,000 people have already landed this year alone.
Over the last week, there has been a dramatic spike in the numbers of refugees – mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa – seeking to leave Turkey by sea for Greece in the hope of building new lives in the European Union. Al Jazeera