Aylan’s tragic death was not a one-off.

“Let this be the last.”

Images of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach sparked worldwide debate and sympathy last week.

The three-year-old refugee drowned, along with his five-year-old brother, Galip, his mother, Rehan, and several other asylum seekers, when their dinghy capsized in the dark of the night as they attempted to reach the Greek island of Kos.

Related: The photograph of Aylan Kurdi tells a story that 1000 three-word-slogans could not.

Aylan was discovered face down, waves gently lapping his limp and sodden body, in the resort town of Bodrum – a far cry from his home in northern Syria.

Aylan Kurdi and his brother Galip.

The image filled social news and media sites, sparking despair and discussion about whether publishing the “disaster porn” was morally right.

Importantly, it provoked many people to donate to one of the organisations offering aid to the many refugees in the midst of the humanitarian crisis.

Or, at least, to think about the plight of those so desperate to escape their war-torn homes that they would risk their own lives and those of their loved ones on the dangerous journey to what they hope is a better life.

The last photo taken of Aylan Kurdi before he made the journey.

It prompted people to put themselves in the shoes of Aylan’s devastated father, who lost his entire family in one fell swoop, and to consider the refugee dilemma in a more compassionate light.

But, sadly, Aylan’s death is not an isolated case.

The shocking photos of their tiny, lifeless bodies washed up on foreign shores may not have gone viral, but plenty of children are suffering the same fate as Aylan as they make the treacherous voyage away from everything they know.

Syrian refugees after fleeing their war-torn country.

Dozens of similar photos have emerged in recent months as the number of migrants fleeing their war-torn homes rivals the migration rates of World War II.

Last month, the bodies of five children were discovered washed up in Libya after a boat carrying 450 people capsized.

Heartbreaking images emerged of a lifeless young boy in a t-shirt and nappy, a girl dressed in pink trousers and a floral top and an older child in a blue jumper and black shorts – the collateral damage of continents in crisis.


These children are among the 2,500 people who have died this year alone while fleeing their home countries.

Aylan Kurdi and his brother Galip.

These children were dressed with care for what turned out to be their final journey. With a likely lack of swimming skills, smaller stores of strength to power their limbs and less fat to keep warm, these children have little chance of surviving the terrifying ordeal of being tipped out of a boat into the dark, cold water.

They are innocent victims of the global refugee crisis, in which more than 294,000 refugees from Syria, Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have landed on islands of Greece and Turkish shores this year. But 2,500-odd people were not so lucky.

The numbers are overwhelming and the problem of providing for the displaced families too big to comprehend.

But it took seeing the picture of little Aylan – the Velcro straps on his tiny shoes undone as his ragdoll-like body is carried by a member of the Turkish military – to make the reality penetrate our hearts and minds, and the crisis all too real for many of us.

Aylan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi: “They slipped through my hands.”

Occasionally, photos can change the course of history. They are a visual aid to help the masses understand the enormity and devastation of a situation. Some images are unforgettable: a courageous protestor standing before a line of army tanks in Tiananmen Square; the ‘falling man’ who chose to jump from a crumbling Twin Tower following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001; a naked nine-year-old girl running away after a napalm attack during the Vietnam War.

Aylan’s will be one of them.

We don’t need to see the photos of his young peers who washed up on a foreign shore far from their homes in search of a safer life. Knowing they exist is enough.

Hopefully the powerful image of Aylan’s tragic ending will be sufficient incentive for the global community to ensure the heartbreaking end to his life is not repeated.

In the words of Aylan’s distraught father: “Let this be the last.”

If you wish to donate, try these organisations:

Save the Children: distributing essential items to asylum seeker families.

Red Cross Europe: Giving emergency health care at train stations.

Migrant Offshore Aid Station: Preventing migrant deaths at sea


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