LESBOS, Greece — Desperate migrants and refugees told NBC News Friday they would continue making perilous journeys to reach western Europe despite the risk of death highlighted by shocking images of a drowned Syrian toddler.
"Everyone is being killed [in Syria]. Everyone is being shot whether you’re in the war or not," a Syrian man who had recently arrived in the small Greek island of Lesbos told NBC News.
He went on to describe the "terrifying” sea crossing from Turkey.
“I was worried about the kids and the women on the boat,” said the man, who added that he was fleeing conscription in the armed forced and asked to be identified only by his initials MB to protect his family in Syria. “Some people were very nervous. Some people wanted to go back but most people wanted to go on.”
When asked why he was he risking his life, the Syrian said he had seen a lot of war and didn’t want to be part of it “for any side.”
Images of little Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed up on the beach in the Turkish resort of Bodrum on Wednesday, went viral and sending shock waves around the world.
His death highlighted the plight of more than 2,370 migrants who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year. Some 2,081 lost their lives trying to make the journey in all of 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.
On Lesbos, a dentist from the Syrian capital, Damascus, described how the boat he and other migrants were on started sinking on Thursday.
“People were screaming and fighting,” he said. “Some people wanted to turn back.” They were eventually saved by the Greek coast guard.
Greek authorities are struggling and often failing to keep order on the Lesbos. With a population of around 90,000, the small island has been overwhelmed by more than 90,000 refugees in the last few weeks — some 20,000 in the last week alone.
There is simply not enough food water and chaos reigned in the small island, sparking frustration and fury.
“Honestly, I’m shocked by the conditions here,” another Syrian told NBC News. “The dogs here are living better than we are. They don’t help you here — in fact the police beat you.”