That Little Syrian Boy: Here's Who He Was : Parallels A photo of a drowned Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach sparked anguish and outrage over the handling of the world's migration crisis.
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That Little Syrian Boy: Here's Who He Was

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That Little Syrian Boy: Here's Who He Was

That Little Syrian Boy: Here's Who He Was

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now we have the story of a Syrian refugee who did not make it as far as Hungary. He only made it to the waters off Turkey, which is where he drowned and washed up on a beach at the age of 3. A photo of this boy in red shirt and blue shorts has been widely shared on social media, and Peter Bouckaert is one of those who shared it. He's emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, and he's on the line. Welcome to the program, sir.

PETER BOUCKAERT: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: What did you see about this photo that made it significant to you?

BOUCKAERT: Well, I was one of the first to actually see the photo while I was working in Hungary with the Syrian refugees, and what really touched me in the photo was this little sneaker. I'm a father of two boys myself, and one of my favorite moments each day is to dress my boys before they go to school. And I just saw those little sneakers and realized that his parents had dressed him that morning for a very difficult journey.

INSKEEP: How much is known about his journey?

BOUCKAERT: Actually, a lot is known about his journey. They were from the city of Kobani in Syria. They had applied for legal migration to Canada because the father's sister was living in Canada, and they were denied. So their only option to join their relatives in Canada was to put their lives in the hands of the smugglers. Aylan was his name. He was age 3, and he died together with his mother and his brother on the sea. You know, I know it's a very disturbing photo, but I think we should be offended that children are washing up dead on our beaches because of the failure of our politicians to provide safe passage for them to refuge rather than by the photo itself.

INSKEEP: Were you comfortable spreading that photo around?

BOUCKAERT: No, I thought long and hard about sharing a photo of a dead boy, but I ultimately made the decision that Europe needs to see the picture and the world needs to see this picture. We really need a wake-up call that children are dying, washing up dead on the beaches of Europe because of our collective failure to provide them with safe passage. The people fleeing Syria are legitimate refugees, and they should be welcomed in Europe and the rest of the world.

INSKEEP: Do you think the world has not quite grasped the enormity of what you've been seeing?

BOUCKAERT: No, I don't think they have at all. I'm in Hungary at the moment where thousands of Syrian refugees and others are blocked from moving on to Germany and other Western European destinations that they wish to reach. They're sleeping out in the open in miserable conditions without the opportunity to watch. With very little food, the children are getting sick. And that's how we're treating people who are fleeing a war zone where we have been unable to stop this slaughter for the last four years. I met a man yesterday who said that he would have preferred to stay in Syria rather than live on the streets of Budapest. He told me, you know, in Syria, there's an explosion, and you die one death. Here, I die a thousand deaths of humiliation.

INSKEEP: Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, thanks very much.

BOUCKAERT: Thank you.

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