Pictures of a toddler’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach have sparked horror as the cost of Europe’s burgeoning refugee crisis hits home.
The images of a tiny child lying face down in the surf at one of Turkey’s main tourist resorts has once more put a human face on the dangers faced by tens of thousands of desperate people who risk life and limb to seek a new life in Europe.
Wearing a red t-shirt and blue shorts, the child is believed to be one of at least 12 Syrians trying to reach Greece who died when their boats sank.
“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.
As Europeans reeled once 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 migrants throughout the 28-member bloc.
The call came as tensions soared between European states over how to tackle the huge influx of refugees and migrants, as thousands more arrived on the Greek mainland where more than 160,000 people have already landed this year alone.
There has been a dramatic spike in the numbers of migrants over the past week — mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa — seeking to leave Turkey by sea for Greece in the hope of finding new lives in the European Union.
The Turkish coastguard said two boats had sunk after separately after 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.
“Do Something, David” the Huffington Post’s UK edition said 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.
By the end of Wednesday some 40,000 people in Britain had signed a petition urging the government to accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugees.
“There is a global refugee crisis. The UK is not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts,” it read.
“We can’t allow refugees who have risked their lives to escape horrendous conflict and violence to be left living in dire, unsafe and inhumane conditions in Europe.”
The government is obliged to respond to any petition with over 10,000 signatures, and if it reaches 100,000 the issue will be considered for debate in parliament.
A separate change.org petition calling on home secretary Theresa May to give “immediate sanctuary to refugees fleeing war and violence” gained 135,000 signatures in four days.
The Independent newspaper also launched its own campaign, calling for Britain to “accept its fair share of refugees”, which gained 13,600 signatures in hours.
Prime Minister David Cameron insisted on Wednesday that a solution would not be found “simply by taking more and more refugees”.