migrant crisis Syria Greece child
A woman removes the life jacket from a baby, who survived the journey, moments after Syrian refugees arrived on a dinghy on the Greek island of LesbosReuters/Dimitris Michalakis

People traffickers exploiting the desperate plight of refugees fleeing from war-torn Syria and other war zones, are enticing families by offering discounts on dinghies making the risky crossing from Turkey to Greece. According to humanitarian agencies working in the area, the traffickers are offering half price fares for 10-year-olds – and under-10s can go for free.

Despite the awful scenes last week, when images of drowned three-year-old Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach sent shockwaves around the world, many families are so desperate to reach Europe they are taking the chance. Some are even told as they board the inflatable craft that if the engine stops they should slash the dinghy and scream for help.

Aylan Kurdi dead on beach
Aylan Kurdi: Images of the dead body of Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach have shocked the worldNilufer Demir/Reuters

Unicef's Chris Tidey, who is working at a centre for refugees in Macedonia, told the Sunday Mirror: "We've spoken to people who have paid up to €1,200 euros [£900] and their infants got in the dinghy for free. Their older kids were 10 so they were charged €600 euros – half price. It's trading in misery. All the children, especially those unaccompanied or separated from their families, are particularly vulnerable."

The deaths of Aylan, his brother Ghalib and their mother, shocked the world and led to pressure on governments to do more to help refugees fleeing from Syria, where civilians are caught between the forces of Assad and Islamic State. The risk faced by refugees was demonstrated again over the weekend as a Syrian baby boy died when a boat capsized as it reached the Greek island of Agathonisi.

The mayor of the Greek island Agathonisi Evagelos Kottoros said: "He was two months old and in a very bad condition. I received a phone call from police asking them to get me a doctor, but I told them there was none on the island. They tried to get the boy moved to the nearest island Samos. A boat came to take the boy there with his parents, but he was pronounced dead in the hospital."