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Harrowing picture of drowned Syrian toddler sparks calls to tackle refugee crisis

By Staff Reporter

Published 03/09/2015

A Turkish police officer carries a migrant child’s dead body off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey
A Turkish police officer carries a migrant child’s dead body off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey

Heart-rending images of a toddler whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach have brought home the harsh reality of the refugee crisis on Europe's doorstep.

The little boy in the photograph is just one of nearly 3,000 refugees who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean this year and one of four million Syrians who have fled their country since the civil war broke out four years ago.

The boy, pictured being carried from the shore at the holiday resort of Bodrum by a police officer, is one of at least 11 Syrian refugees feared dead after they drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean on two boats bound for the Greek island of Kos.

Reports have named him as three-year-old Kurdish boy Aylan Kurdi.

It is understood Aylan, his brother Galip (5) and mother Rihan (35) all died after the dinghy they had been crammed into capsized half an hour after leaving a Turkish port.

None of the passengers fleeing the horrors of the Middle East fighting was wearing life-jackets. Aylan's father Abdullah was one of the few survivors.

The shocking pictures have unleashed a torrent of reaction locally.

First Minister Peter Robinson MLA said: "This is an absolutely heartbreaking image."

South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said the story of the little boy touched people here deeply.

She said: "On a human level, Irish people have an immediate sympathy with migrant people in crisis. A century-and-a-half ago many Irish were in a similar situation because of the Famine.

"Better provision must be made from these people in crisis, as they try to escape from famine, povery and isolation.

"Governments and the EU need to take more humane attitude and made better provision for these refugees in terms of food and shelter."

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey MLA said: "There has to be more that we can do to help.

"It is shameful and harrowing to see these kind of images on a daily basis.

"People here need to get over themselves. This is a wake-up call, and it puts out our own issues here perspective.

"We have our problems here, and they are serious - but they pale into insignificance when you see these images from the eastern Mediterranean."

BBC presenter Stephen Nolan tweeted: "So, so sad." He also vowed to discuss the issue on his radio programme.

The shocking images have led to a political row in the UK.

David Cameron has insisted that taking in more refugees would not solve the migration crisis - but Labour and the Liberal Democrats rounded on the Prime Minister, saying Britain must act and that "enough is enough".

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who has called for the UK to take in 10,000 extra refugees, said the Government cannot keep turning its back on the heartbreak unfolding across Europe.

The Labour leadership candidate said: "When mothers are desperately trying to stop their babies from drowning when their boat has capsized, when people are being left to suffocate in the backs of lorries by evil gangs of traffickers and when children's bodies are being washed to shore, Britain needs to act."

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: "There is a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep but we are disengaged, cold, and irrelevant.

"We must take our fair share of refugees."

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