Refugee crisis: Father photographed crying with children in Kos has reached Germany

Laith Majid almost drowned with his wife and children on the way to Greece

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 08 September 2015 09:36 BST
Laith Majid was photographed crying and clutching his children after they almost drowned on the voyage to Kos
Laith Majid was photographed crying and clutching his children after they almost drowned on the voyage to Kos (Eyevine)

The refugee who was photographed weeping as he landed on a Greek island cradling his children has reached safety in Germany.

The image of Laith Majid was shared by thousands of people on social media, provoking global discussion of the refugee crisis last month as calls grew for Europe to give families risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean a safe home.

He and his family arrived in Kos at dawn on 16 August after being crammed in a dinghy meant for just three people with eight other refugees.

More than 300,000 refugees have crossed the sea to Europe this year, with more than 2,500 dying on the voyage (Yannis Behrakis, Reuters)

The vessel lost buoyancy and started taking on water during the voyage from Turkey, risking yet another sinking in the Aegean Sea.

The route from Bodrum to Kos was the same journey that killed three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was photographed washed up on a beach.

Photographer Daniel Etter caught Laith’s tears of relief as he reached dry land with his son and daughter in his arms, before the family stayed in a makeshift tent and attempted to journey on to the Greek mainland.

Now, Germany’s Bild newspaper has traced the al-Amirij family to Berlin.

Laith, 44, his wife Neda, sons Mustafa, 18, Ahmed, 17, Taha, nine, and seven-year-old daughter Nour have reportedly applied for asylum from the German government, which expects to take in 800,000 refugees this year.

The photo of the weeping father clutching onto his children, as they survived the deadly crossing and arrived on the...

Posted by Europe says OXI on Monday, 7 September 2015

Neda, an English teacher, told Bild that 13 countries had tried to register them but they chose Germany as their destination.

“We heard there is help for us here, schools for the children,” she added, speaking from an army barracks-turned refugee shelter.

“The leader of Germany, Angela Merkel, is a very good person. She is like a mother to us.”


The newspaper reported that the Sunni family were Iraqis and had fled the capital of Baghdad, where they had faced death threats under Shia rule, although previous reports said they were Syrian.

Mr Etter told German media last month that they had fled the city of Deir ez-Zor, a Syrian government stronghold besieged by Isis. The reason for the conflicting reports was unclear.

Landing in Kos was not the end of the family’s nightmare – they also suffered a 24-hour “horror ride” in a sealed lorry from Athens to Berlin.

Nour, Laith and Neda’s youngest child, still has nightmares about their almost fatal voyage.

“We will never go to the sea again,” her father said.

Of the 300,000 refugees and migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to reach safety in Europe so far this year, more than 2,500 have died attempting the voyage, the UN's refugee agency estimates.

This newspaper has started a campaign for the UK to welcome a fair share of refugees.


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