The father of two young refugee boys from Syria, who drowned with their mother Wednesday while trying to reach Greece, identified their bodies at a Turkish morgue Thursday and prepared to take them back to their home in Kobani, Syria, Reuters reported. A photo of one of the boys, facedown in the surf, went viral earlier this week, prompting a global response of sympathy and frustration over the lack of help given to refugees fleeing Syria and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Abdullah Kurdi, 40, the father of 5-year-old Galip and 3-year-old Aylan, said his family attempted to reach the Greek island of Kos, but their boat overturned and the boys, along with their mother, drowned. Twelve people ended up dying after the boat capsized.
“The waves were high; the boat started swaying and shaking. We were terrified,” Kurdi said, as the New York Times reported. “I rushed to my kids and wife while the boat was flipping upside down. And in a second we were all drowning in the water.”
Kurdi collapsed in tears after leaving a morgue in Mugla, Turkey, located near the southern city of Bodrum, where the body of Aylan washed up Wednesday. The photo of the boy’s limp body put pressure on European leaders to do something about the increasingly dire refugee crisis.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls took to Twitter, writing, "He had a name: Aylan Kurdi. Urgent action required - A Europe-wide mobilisation is urgent.”
Since March 2011, when the Syrian civil war began, there has been an exponential growth in refugees. In 2012, there were 100,000 refugees, and by April 2013 that number climbed to 800,000, Mercy Corps says. There are now 4 million Syrian refugees scattered throughout the region, making it the world's largest refugee population under the United Nations' mandate. The U.N. has predicted there could be as many as 4.27 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2015.
While Turkey has been acclaimed for taking in 2 million refugees since the Syrian civil war began, they have warned that they are getting close to reaching capacity. Thousands are now attempting to get from Turkey to Greece by boat. The U.N. refugee agency estimated that nearly 160,000 refugees and migrants have reached Greece by sea since 2014. Last year, 43,500 refugees arrived in Greece, but this year, 50,000 people, mostly Syrians, arrived in Greece in July alone, Reuters reported.
“European countries, which have turned the Mediterranean, the cradle of the world's oldest civilizations, into a cemetery for refugees, shares the sin for every refugee who loses their life," Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, as Reuters reported.