Syrian Kurdish refugees are rescued by Greek fishermen as the boat they had boarded sinks off the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS
Children caught up in Syria's migrant crisis
02:34 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Were he alive today, Alan Kurdi would have been four years old.

One year after his death, the little boy in the red t-shirt’s perilous journey across the Mediterranean is still being made by tens of thousands of children fleeing conflict.

For the “lucky ones” who survive the crossing, their temporary home is usually a Greek detention center.

Others, like Kurdi, never step foot on European soil, instead drowning in the vessels their desperate parents paid smugglers thousands to travel in.

The stories below are of children who tried to cross the Mediterranean – the ones who made it to Europe and the others who tragically died at sea.

The people sharing their homes with refugees


aylan kurdi three year olds comparison

Hadi (left) has been awaiting relocation in Greece for six months. His family left Syria in October 2015 when their house was destroyed. After traveling to Turkey, they paid smugglers just over $3,000 to take a three-hour boat to Greece.

Since arriving in February, the family-of-five has lived in various camps before moving to a hotel where they are still waiting for an appointment to apply for relocation. Hadi’s 38-year-old mother Salwa was a teacher in Damascus and tried to set up a school in one of the camps – but there were no books, she told Amnesty International.

They hope to move to Germany, where they have relatives.

What awaits Syrian children in Europe

Alan Kurdi (right) drowned on September 2, 2015. The haunting photograph of the three-year-old boy lying face down in the sand became the defining image of the refugee crisis.

“Where is the humanity in the world?” wondered his aunt, Tima Kurdi, a sentiment that was echoed on front pages across the globe.

The family were Kurds from Syria who were trying to reach relatives in Vancouver, Canada. But their journey ended in tragedy when Alan, along with his four-year-old brother and his mother, Rehen, all died on the boat trip across the Aegean Sea to Greece – leaving father Abdullah the sole survivor.

“I don’t want anything else from this world,” Abdullah Kurdi told CNN at the time. “Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”

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Children struggle to cope with Syria's war
03:04 - Source: CNN


four year old brothers refugee children

Dilaver, 4, and brother Mahmoud, 1 (left), arrived in Greece in February. The family paid smugglers $2,000 to make the boat trip between Turkey and Greece. “The boat was not safe,” father Mohammed told the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Still they pushed us from the shore in the middle of the night. It was very cold.”

Mother Faida said they had no option other than to flee their home town of Al-Hasakah in northern Syria. “We no longer had any home, no money, no work and no future for the children,” she said.

The family were registered on the Greek island of Chios and are hoping to make a new life in Germany.

Yusuf, 4, and brother Yunus, 2 (right), drowned on October 31, 2015. Haji Shafi lost two of his four sons on the boat trip between Turkey and Greece. “The weather was very bad – very rainy – there were high waves,” he told Amnesty International. “People on the boat were very afraid and started jumping into the water. The boat turned over and I couldn’t save all my children.”

The family-of-six fled Afghanistan after fearing they’d be forced to join the Taliban, paying smugglers $1,000 per adult, and $500 per child, to cross the Aegean Sea.

After the accident the family headed back to Istanbul, where they slept under a bridge. “We can’t make a plan, we can’t make any decision,” said Haji Shafi. “We are shocked.”


aylan kurdi 5 year old girls

Rasal (left) is staying in Lesvos camp, Greece. This is the second time Rasal and her family have attempted to leave Syria – the first time they were shot at, and abandoned the trip.

This time, the five-year-old lost her small bag of possessions when the rubber boat they were traveling in capsized on the Greek shoreline.

“We were on the boat for a really long time,” Rasal told Action Aid about the journey from Turkey. “I was hungry and thirsty and the waves were so big, they kept coming over our heads.”

Rasal doesn’t remember a time there wasn’t fighting in Syria. But her 13-year-old sister Sidra does – “that’s why she gets so sad,” the five-year-old said.

The family hope to move to Germany.

Farah (right) drowned on October 31, 2015. Farah is the cousin of Yusuf and Yunus (above), the brothers from Afghanistan who drowned on the same boat journey between Turkey and Greece. The two families had been traveling together in search of a better education for their children.

“Before trying to go to Europe we gathered information, we learned there is no right to education for our kids in Turkey,” Rasal’s uncle Haji Shafi told Amnesty International. “We don’t want our children to be uneducated – this is the main reason we tried to leave Turkey.”

Both families have since returned to Turkey. With their children and savings gone, and unable to travel to either Afghanistan or Europe, the future looks bleak.


aylan kurdi six year old girls

Noura (left) has been stranded in Greece since March. The little girl fled Aleppo with her mother and three siblings, making the journey between Syria and Turkey on foot. From Turkey, they boarded a rubber dinghy, so overcrowded there weren’t enough life jackets to go round.

“None of us know how to swim,” Noura’s mother Nadja told Amnesty International. “It was three hours of horror during the night. But we knew we would die anyway in Syria, so we had to try to survive.”

The family spent two months stranded in Athens after the borders were closed, before moving to Skaramagas camp on the outskirts of the city. Noura has lost 2 kilograms since they arrived in Greece, says her mother. They hope to reunite with Noura’s father, who is living in Germany.

Rand (her grave is pictured right) died after a train accident in Greece. The six-year-old girl from Syria was killed shortly after arriving in Greece from the Balkans, when a passing train caused her to loose her balance and she fatally hit her head.

“We miss her,” mother Reem told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to which father Mahmoud replied “We need to be strong.”

Rand is buried in Greece. Her parents and their three other children were relocated to France in January.


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Rachel (pictured left with father Walid) is living in the UK. Her family moved from Syria to Lebanon in 2012 after their village was destroyed. Rachel was born with a hole in her heart and needed constant medical care. Her father Walid, who has sarcoma, a form of cancer, wasn’t able to work.

In 2014 the family-of-five was accepted to the UK on humanitarian admission, and are now living in Bradford, England.

“I like school,” Rachel, who wants to be kindergarten teacher when she grows up, told Amnesty International. “I have three best friends, and at Christmas time Santa came and gave us presents.”

Laya (family pictured right) drowned on the journey. The eight-year-old girl from Syria died three days before this picture was taken of younger sister Linette, and parents Tarek and Lina. The family spent six hours in the water after their boat capsized during the night between Lebanon and Greece.

“I saw my daughter’s hand and I pulled her close so that we could surface for air together,” mother Lina told the UNHCR. “Then everyone started to fall on top of me and Laya fell out of my grasp.”

“Trying to reach Germany came at a very high price.”