Video footage shot by a Turkish fisherman caught the moment the 18-month-old was rescued and turned upside down to get water out of his airways.
The boy was wearing a life jacket but had ended up floating with his face submerged in the Aegean Sea.
Other refugees are seen in the water shortly before trying to alert the fishing boat's crew to their plight. It is thought their boat had capsized.
The captain of the vessel that rescued the boy said when he was pulled from the water, he was cold and pale and his limbs had gone white.
He initially thought the youngster, named as Muhammad Hasan, was dead.
It was only when the boy started making noises that he realized he could be saved and a crewman desperately tried to administer first aid.
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