The devastating image of a 3-year-old boy who drowned while trying to escape Syria has spurred donors to give thousands of dollars to a small nonprofit that helps migrants and refugees who are at risk at sea.
The lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, which washed up at tourist beach in Turkey on Wednesday, has ignited outrage and concern over the prevailing refugee crisis in Europe. Donors were so moved by the story that, in a period of 24 hours, they gave more than 180,000 British pounds (over $275,000) to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station.
Armed with a team of seasoned rescuers and paramedics, MOAS has rescued more than 11,000 people from “unseaworthy” vessels in the Mediterranean in the past year. In one day alone, donations via PayPal more than tripled what the organization collected over the course of two years, MOAS said in a statement.
“We do not want to [be] bystanders whilst people die at sea,” the organization said in a statement. “We are humbled by the scale of donations we have seen yesterday and throughout the night -- every donation will make a difference to our operations as we strive to prevent further deaths in the Mediterranean.”
The surge in donations comes at a time at a crucial moment.
This year, an estimated 2,500 refugees and migrants have died or gone missing while trying to escape their homes to Europe via the Mediterranean. Many of the refugees are willing to brave the treacherous sea, and risks of sailing on a flimsy boat, to escape war and conflict zones.
The refugees are from such hotbeds as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to UNHCR.
Christopher and Regina Catrambone were inspired to establish the Migrant Offshore Aid Station after 400 migrants drowned near the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013.
The group performs its rescue efforts with a 130-foot boat, two aircrafts and two inflatable boats.
Aylan’s tragic story represents those of so many other impoverished families who are desperate to find a better life.
Aylan, his 5-year-old brother and mother all died after their boat capsized.
They were among the 12 victims who perished after two boats capsized after setting off from Turkey's Bodrum peninsula, Reuters reported, according to Reuters.
Aylan’s father, Abdullah, told HuffPost Arabi that he was so strapped for cash that he couldn’t afford to buy his family life jackets, in addition to the other costs required to trek from Syria to Greece.
“I wish I could transfer my breath to them, to breathe life into their bodies again,” he said. “We spent a whole hour holding on to the boat. My children were still alive. The first one died because of the raging waves. I had to leave him to save my second son, who also drowned. I turned around to find that their mother had drowned as well.”