Nilufer Demir / DHA / Reuters

Bodies of 11 Syrian refugees wash ashore in Turkey

Image of drowned toddler in red shirt goes viral; he was among thousands fleeing Syria seeking refuge in Europe

Warning: This story contains imagery that readers may find distressing

An image of a drowned toddler washed up on the beach in one of Turkey's prime tourist resorts swept across social media on Wednesday, after at least 11 people, presumed to be Syrian refugees, died trying to reach the Greek island of Kos.

The picture showed a little boy wearing a bright red t-shirt and shorts lying face-down in the surf on a beach near the resort town of Bodrum. In a second image, a grim-faced policeman carries the tiny body away.

Turkish media identified the boy as 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose 5-year-old brother, Galip, died on the same boat.  The Kurdi boys were originally from the Kurdish-Syrian city of Kobane, a center of Syria's battle with fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Canadian legislator Fin Donnelly told The Vancouver Sun that Teema Kurdi, a relative of the children, had sought to sponsor them and their mother but that her request was turned down by Canadian immigration officials.

Donnelly said the woman tried to sponsor her nephews Aylan and Galip, and their mother, Rehan, all three of whom drowned.

The hashtag “KiyiyaVuranInsanlik” — "humanity washed ashore" — became the top trending topic on Twitter after the picture was retweeted heavily.

The two boats, carrying a total of 23 people, had set off separately from the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula, a senior Turkish naval official said.

The confirmed dead included five children and one woman. Seven people were rescued, and two reached the shore in lifejackets. The official said hopes of saving the two people still missing were fading.

A Turkish policeman in Bodrum approaches a child who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, Sept. 2, 2015.
Nilufer Demir / DHA / Reuters

Television images showed the lifeless body of a small boy dressed in a red t-shirt and blue shorts lying face-down on the sand in Bodrum, one of Turkey's most popular beach resorts.

Tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the war in their homeland have descended on Turkey's Aegean coast this summer to board boats to Greece, their gateway to the European Union.

The official said that about 100 people had been rescued by Turkish vessels overnight as they tried to reach Kos.

Aid agencies estimate that, over the past month, about 2,000 people a day have been making the short crossing to Greece's eastern islands on rubber dinghies.

A ship bringing about 1,800 migrants and refugees from one of the islands arrived at the port of Piraeus near Athens on Tuesday night, the Greek coastguard said.

Thousands of people, mainly Africans, have also been trying to reach Europe via boat from Libya to Italy. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said four bodies had been pulled from the central Mediterranean on Tuesday and 781 migrants rescued, mostly from Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

So far this year, more than 2,500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, the UNHCR said.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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