The drowned child washed up on a Turkish beach captured in a photograph that went around the world Wednesday was three-year-old Alan Kurdi. He died, along with his five-year-old brother Galib and their mother Rehan, in a desperate attempt to reach Canada.
The Syrian-Kurds from Kobane died along with eight other refugees early Wednesday. The father of the two boys, Abdullah, survived.
The father’s family says his only wish now is to return to Kobane with his dead wife and children, bury them, and be buried alongside them.
“I heard the news at five o’clock in this morning,” Tima Kurdi, Abdullah’s sister, said Wednesday.
She learned of the drowning through a telephone call from Ghuson Kurdi, the wife of another brother, Mohammad. “She had got a call from Abdullah, and all he said was, my wife and two boys are dead.”
Tima, a Vancouver hairdresser who emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, said Abdullah and Rehan Kurdi and their two boys were the subject of a “G5” privately sponsored refugee application that the ministry of citizenship and immigration rejected in June, owing to the complexities involved in refugee applications from Turkey.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander could not be reached for comment, but Port Moody – Coquitlam NDP MP Fin Donnelly said he’d hand-delivered the Kurdis’ file to Alexander earlier this year.
Alexander said he’d look into it, Donnelly said, but the Kurdis’ application was rejected in June.
“This is horrific and heartbreaking news,” Donnelly said. “The frustration of waiting and the inaction has been terrible.”
The family had two strikes against it — like thousands of other Syrian-Kurdish refugees in Turkey, the United Nations would not register them as refugees, and the Turkish government would not grant them exit visas.
DHAA paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of a migrant child after a number of migrants died near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015.
“I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat. I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there,” Tima said.
Canada and Turkey have long been at loggerheads over the bottleneck blocking Syrian refugees in Turkey from finding their way to Canada. It is not uncommon for Kurds in Syria to be arbitrarily denied passports, and to have great difficulty registering as refugees with the UNHCR. The Turkish government refuses to issue exit visas to unregistered refugees not holding valid passports.