Migrant Crisis: The Harrowing Plight of Refugee Families

Heartbreaking photos of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy found on a Turkish beach sparked public outcry.
7:21 | 09/04/15

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Transcript for Migrant Crisis: The Harrowing Plight of Refugee Families
Grief and outrage tonight over a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions. The photographs, impossible to unsee. That image of a toddler drowned trying to reach a better life. And the story behind it just one of thousands who have died at sea as smugglers ferry those desperate for the refuge of Europe. Here's ABC's chief foreign correspondent terry Moran. Reporter: It's become the image of the refugee crisis in Europe. The disturbing photo of a lifeless Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach. Now we know his name. Allan kurdy, 3 years old, he drowned. Along with his mother, 5-year-old brother, and at least ten other refugees. Abdullah kurdy, father and husband, the lone survivor, still in shock today. "Everything is gone." The family, Syrian kurds from near kobani. The town was nearly levelled in a battle with Isis this year. So they fled to Turkey, paying smugglers their more than $5,000 to help them cross to a Greek island in a 15-foot rubber boat. They came to this beach. ABC was there this week when another refugee group waded through the surf piling into the flimsy dinghy, children lifted in, heading into the waves by flashlight. Today Abdullah kurdy remembered how he desperately held one boy in each arm when the boat went over, keeping their heads above water. But they tired. So did his wife. And he lost them all. At the morgue today, identifying the bodies, he says -- "My kids were the most beautiful children in the world." I can't even imagine any father or any mother, their kids to die in their arms. Reporter: Abdullah's sister teema had been waiting by the phone in Vancouver, Canada. She tried to bring the family there earlier this year. It's a wakeup call. My proceed said to me, it'son orularity powders may take days to work. True dulcalax,provides gentle overnitlief. Designs for dendareli. Wheainep, I use saloas, deepelieving gel. This power rushes three pa it's st-melti, quick-absorbing, penetrating deep re salonpas. Powerful relief when and where you need it. Number one in just 60 3,000 migrant deaths so far this year. Even for those who survive and make it to Europe, the crushing realization that they are not welcome. Countries buckling under the influx. Chaos in Hungary. The Budapest train station, men and women squeezing through windows, others pushing, pulling, climbing their way into train cars. Too many people in the train. Children and girls, little families. Reporter: Many more stranded on the platform for hours on end. No help comes. Thousands of refugees fighting to board, hoping to get to Germany. Most of the people say that this train is going to Germany. So therefore we can't use this train. Reporter: The train stops at a Hungarian village an hour later. Desperate families wrestling with police, ordered by european law to process them to refugee camps. Many refusing to go. This couple curled up with their toddler on the train tracks as police struggle to pull them off. Hundreds remain aboard this train car which they believed was headed to the Austrian border, only to be stopped short on their long road to a better life. In izmir, Turkey. 10-month-old fahad and his family are waiting to cross to Greece. The same perilous journey that shattered Allan kurdy's family. They're Syrian. Mom, dad, brother and two sisters. Mohammad was a career military man in Syria. A steady job. And a nice house too, he tells us. Have you ever felt that you want to give up? "That's it," she remembers of a particularly bad time. "We were going to go back." She is 29 years old. Here in Turkey, many refugees head to the same place. It's where you can find the smugglers, the middlemen, the gangsters who can get you across to Greece. The smugglers here are charging $1,100 for adults, half price for kids. That's a life savings for many. The risks in these open boats are unspeakable. Local merchants are profiting on the desperation. This is a life preserver? It looks like a toy. It says "This is not a life-saving device." This is for a little child. Reporter: The store owner didn't want us around after that. This year, more than 2,300 migrants from across the middle east and Africa have drowned in the mediterranean trying to get to Europe. You can't stand up. Miserable conditions. Reporter: In June my ABC colleague Alex Marquardt saw firsthand how squalid and dangerous this passage is, joining a search and rescue operation off the coast of Libya. We're here to help you! How many people are you on the boat? 500? 560? And kids? Hey, hey, hey, sit down! Every square inch filled with people. They tell us there are 300 more down below. My kids. It has to be a wakeup C for the whole world. He said to me, my message too the world, help those people crossing that water. I don't want any family to drown anywhere. I don't want to see it. Of thousands from the middle east and Africa who have been fleeing their battle-worn and poverty-stricken countries. The biggest mass migration in Europe since world war ii. They come through Turkey, then to Greece, Macedonia, and serbi T inhe bas,lkano INT hryunga, Na filly aua,rist rmge any, nd E th stfre O Europe. At least 350,000ef rseeugnd a gh hire gntsav he illegally entered Europe just so far this year. That's nearly triple the number all last year. And many have along the way. More T your belongings went into the water? "Everything," he says. They're exhausted. No place to go. But they're in Greece. Together. And on their way to Germany, if they can make it there. Back in Turkey, a different father, the father of Allan and galib, harbored the same dream of a better life for them. But his journey is now over. "All I want to do is sit by the graves of my wife and children," he says. For "Nightline," I'm terry Moran. Our thanks to terry Moran for his ongoing coverage of the migrant crisis.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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