The extraordinary images, some of which the Belfast Telegraph has chosen not to publish, serve as a stark reminder that, as European leaders increasingly try to prevent refugees and migrants from settling in the continent, more and more refugees are dying in their desperation to flee persecution and reach safety.
One of the boats was carrying six Syrians when it sank after leaving Akyarlar, in a desperate attempt to cross the 5km Aegean straight to Kos that represented their best chance of entering the EU.
According to Turkey’s Dogan news agency, three children and a woman from the small boat drowned. Two people survived after swimming back to shore in life jackets.
Labour leadership front-runner Jeremy Corbyn told The Independent: "Nobody could fail to be moved by this harrowing and heartbreaking image.
"It should remind us of the situation facing millions of people desperately fleeing a terrible civil war.
"The government's response to the refugee crisis has been wholly inadequate, and we are being shamed by our European neighbours."
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, told The Independent: "Enough is enough. These pictures are beyond horrific. They are the wake-up call David Cameron needs."
He was joined by Yvette Cooper, another contender for the Labour leader post, who told The Independent: "It is heartbreaking what is happening on our continent. We cannot keep turning our backs on this. We can - and must - do more."
Along with Afghan citizens, Syrians make up the bulk of the people fleeing conflict in their homeland to seek a safer home in Europe.
But while images of desperate refugees emerge almost every day, the attitude of Europe's policymakers and much of the public have continued to harden.
In Britain, David Cameron and Philip Hammond have been criticised for the “dehumanising” language they use to describe refugees.
The Prime Minister described migrants coming to the UK as a “swarm”, and later said he would not “allow people to break into our country”.
Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said refugees were “marauding” around Calais. Amnesty International called his comments “shameful”.
Northern Ireland reaction
In Northern Ireland, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has made a direct plea to the Prime Minister to accept more refugees from Syria and the Middle East.
Mr McGuinness said: "The world has been shocked by the harrowing images which have been beamed across the globe in recent days and we all have a responsibility to do everything in our power to alleviate this growing humanitarian crisis.
"I spoke to David Cameron today and made a direct appeal to him to permit entry to more refugees and to enable regions such as our own to welcome these people.
"I have no doubt the people of the North – and indeed Scotland and Wales – would gladly welcome any moves to allow more refugees to come here.
"My Department has already been exploring the feasibility of how we can do that.
“In fact, Junior Minister Jennifer McCann raised the issue at the Joint Ministerial Committee in June where there was a clear view from the devolved regions that more needs to be done to assist the refugees.
“And while there may be the possibility of taking unilateral steps, the most effective way of taking action would require the cooperation of the British Government.
"David Cameron told me he is open to such a discussion with the Executive and I intend to follow that up with the First Minister and the administrations in Scotland and Wales."
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has written to Mr Hammond calling on the Government to do more to assist refugees.
The DUP representative said: "‘The picture of a young Kurdish boy whose body was found on a Turkish beach has shocked us all and highlighted the human cost of those who are seeking refuge away from places such as Syria.
"There is nothing wrong with advocating stronger controls on our borders but we must not confuse immigration policy to deal with economic migrants with how our country should respond to a humanitarian crisis.
"The family of the young boy whose image is now seared on our minds left their homeland, not in search of the most attractive benefits regime or the most comfortable standard of living, but fleeing from a country being ravaged by ISIL.
"It is important that as a nation we do not turn our back on such a crisis. The Government must do more to assist refugees, and whilst the outpouring of feeling on social media has helped highlight the issue, as individuals we are not powerless to help through donations to the many agencies helping refugees directly and providing vital humanitarian aid."
Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, said that the UK must work with the European Union and the United Nations to "deliver a fair, workable solution to the current refugee crisis".
Mr Nesbitt MLA, said: "The image of three year old Aylan Kurdi's body has demonstrated the human cost of this crisis in the most shocking way. No parent can avoid the "what if it were my family" question. Frankly, if we try to ignore this, we lose sight of our common humanity and diminish who we are.
"We, of all societies, should have empathy for those fleeing persecution and seeking better times. Our forefathers, both Ulster Scots and Irish, left this land in previous centuries and have gone on to make huge contributions to the making of the modern world.
"The United Kingdom must work with the European Union and the United Nations to deliver a fair, workable solution. In the great scheme of things, Northern Ireland has limited resources and can play a very small part in any solution, but the humane thing to do is play that part."
SDLP Leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP said that the government must react quickly.
He said: “Like so many others across the length and breadth of these islands, my heart has broken seeing the images of refugees struggling and dying in their attempt to reach safe haven on our shores. We cannot stand idly by as a humanitarian crisis unfolds on the shores of the European Union.
“This is not a sudden development. The flow of people from the Mediterranean fleeing the worst conditions imaginable in Syria and surrounding countries has been building for months. That’s why I wrote to the Prime Minister in June to request immediate action to provide safety to those who find themselves in this horrendous position.
“I was appalled to receive a response from Immigration Minister James Brokenshire which suggested the best course of action would be preventing people embarking on the journey across the Mediterranean.
“Dismissing these people as ‘migrants’ and ‘swarms’ is not only deeply insulting and inflammatory: it is factually incorrect. Risking your life and the lives of your children in an attempt to flee war, persecution and oppression is an irrepressible human instinct: it is not an economic option. The Prime Minister must urgently reconsider the decision to end Operation Mare Nostrum in favour of more limited support which has cost hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. He must also commit to offering sanctuary to those so desperately in need of our help.
“Europe is at its best when we are united by our common humanity in the face of incredible injustice. We must find that spirit again and deliver urgent assistance to those who so desperately need it.”
Meanwhile, Hungary has continued to build its razor-wire fence blocking off the 170km length of its border with Serbia, and on Wednesday police in Budapest blocked refugees from boarding trains to Germany for a second day running.
In the Czech Republic, some 200 refugees with valid train tickets were hauled off a train bound for Germany and given registration numbers, in permanent marker, written on their arms.
In the Netherlands, the government has announced a toughening of its rules that would see failed asylum-seekers cut off from food and shelter within “a few weeks” of being handed a decision.
Nicola Sturgeon has written to David Cameron calling on the Prime Minister to increase the number of refugees taken in by the UK.
An emotional First Minister told the Scottish Parliament that Scotland will do ''everything possible'' to help tackle the crisis as she spoke of how she had been reduced to tears by images of a young child washed up dead on a beach.
The First Minister said in Scotland ''we stand ready to help offer sanctuary to refugees who need our help'' as she criticised Mr Cameron, accusing the Prime Minister of taking a ''walk on by on the other side approach'' to the growing international situation.
The SNP leader wrote to the Prime Minister calling on him to change his approach and also announced a special summit would be held on Friday to look at what could be done in Scotland.
Her letter reads: "I am in no doubt that we are all horrified by the scale of the refugee crisis unfolding on Europe's shore. The tragic death of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on Turkey's beach line, only serves to highlight further the plight of the thousands of people seeking safety and protection.
"The scale of such a humanitarian emergency is immense but it is not insurmountable. We recognise the need for long term, co-ordinated action to tackle the causes of this crisis but this cannot be a substitute for an immediate humanitarian response.
"We, with our neighbours and friends across the EU, have a moral obligation to offer a place of safety to these desperate people fleeing conflict and persecution. I welcomed the expansion of the Syrian Vulnerable Person scheme but I would stress that this in itself is not sufficient to address the crisis we are witnessing.
"I strongly urge you to reconsider the UK Government's current response. The Scottish Government believes we must take part in the EU response. We can start by participating in the initial EU proposals on relocation and refugee resettlement. The UK must take a proportionate share of people fleeing conflict and persecution.
"I would once again reiterate that Scotland stands ready to support the UK Government in providing an appropriate response to this situation."
The refugee summit organised by the First Minister will bring together politicians, charities, religious groups and other representatives of civic Scotland to discuss the situation and set out what Scotland can do to help.