The father of a Syrian toddler whose lifeless body was found on a Turkish beach has said he wants the international attention on his death to focus on preventing similar incidents from happening again.
Abdullah Kurdi spoke on Thursday outside the morgue where the bodies of his sons Aylan and Galip, and his wife, who was believed to have been called Riham, were being held.
“We want the world’s attention on us, so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last,” Kurdi said, according to the Reuters news agency.
In a statement to police obtained by the Hurriyet newspaper, Abdullah said he had twice paid smugglers to take him and his family to Greece but their efforts had failed.
They had then decided to find a boat and row themselves but it began to take in water and when people stood up in panic, it capsized.
“I was holding my wife’s hand. My children slipped away from my hands. We tried to hold on to the boat,” he said in the statement. “Everyone was screaming in pitch darkness. I couldn’t make my voice heard to my wife and kids.”
Abdullah Kurdi plans to bury his family in the northern Syrian city of Kobane, scene of heavy fighting between Kurdish forces and fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
The image of Aylan, drowned off one of Turkey’s most popular holiday resorts, went viral on social media and piled pressure on European leaders to do more to help refugees.
Heart-rending pictures of the toddler’s lifeless body put a human face on the dangers faced by tens of thousands of desperate people who risk their lives to seek safety in Europe.
Wearing a red T-shirt and blue shorts, three-year-old Aylan 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.
Galip, five, 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.
— ⓒⓕ (@cfbcity) September 2, 2015
The pictures, which were widely shared on social media, triggered an outpouring of angry reactions.
Some people demanded immediate action from their governments to help refugees, others scolded fellow Facebook users for posting the images and said 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 Sarsour ديمة (@YasminWaQahwa) September 2, 2015
Yet, many said the pictures needed to be seen.
“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 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.
Over the past 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.