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Tragic Image of Drowned Syrian Boy Gone Viral Puts Refugee Crisis in Media Spotlight

3-year-old Aylan Kurdi was found washed ashore in Turkey on Wednesday

An image of a 3-year-old Turkish boy washed ashore on Wednesday is spreading across the media as the refugee crisis wages on.

Aylan Kurdi’s body was found washed up on a Turkish beach on Wednesday in a red T-shirt, blue shorts and Velcro sneakers. The heartbreaking image, photographed and videoed, was shared initially by refugee aid workers, but quickly became a widely-shared trend over social media.

The name #AylanKurdi is trending in the US and worldwide on Twitter. The hashtag was used 48,098 times in the past 24 hours. It appeared in Facebook feeds, and trended there as well. In the past 24 hours, there have been nearly 55,000 tweets with the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik, Turkish for Humanity Washed Up Ashore.

But the biggest conversation on Twitter has taken place around #RefugeesWelcome, which has been used 180,000 times over the past 24 hours.

The boy and his family drowned while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos; their boat and one other capsized after straying away from each other near the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula.

A total of 12 people died out of 23 who were on the boats, Turkish officials said.  The photo has been shared widely on social medias, sparking renewed calls for action in the fact of an ongoing refugee crisis.

“I just saw these little sneakers and realized his parents had dressed him that morning for a very difficult journey,” Human Rights Watch’s Peter Bouckaert said on NPR on Thursday. “Europe needs to see this picture and the world needs to this picture.”

Four million Syrians have fled their country while three million Iraqis have been exiled.