Aylan Kurdi and family repeatedly displaced in Syria

Aylan Kurdi and family repeatedly displaced in Syria
The family of a Syrian boy whose dead body washed up on a Turkish beach had been trying to emigrate to Canada after being forced to flee Syria multiple times.
4 min read
03 September, 2015
The number of people risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean has exceeded 300,000 [Getty]

The family of a Syrian boy whose dead body washed up on a Turkish beach had been trying to emigrate to Canada, a report said Thursday.

The bleak image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down in the sand has become a poignant image of the plight of Syrian refugees and quickly went viral Wednesday.

He was believed to be one of at least 12 migrants who died trying to reach Greece when their boats sank in Turkish waters.

The father of Aylan, the only survivor of the family of four, said his children "slipped through my hands" as their boat was taking in water en route to Greece.

"I was holding my wife's hand. But my children slipped through my hands," Abdullah Kurdi said.

"We tried to cling to the boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming," Kurdi told Turkey's Dogan news agency of the sinking that also killed his wife and five-year-old son Ghaleb.

The Ottawa Citizen reported the sister of Abdullah Kurdi saying that the family were the "subject of a 'G5' privately sponsored refugee application" that Canada's immigration authorities rejected in June.

"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," the newspaper quoted Teema Kurdi, a Vancouver hairdresser, as saying.

"I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there."

My children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming
- Abdullah Kurdi

Kurdi emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, according to the paper.

Mustefa Ebdi, a journalist in the family's original hometown of Kobane on the Turkish border in northern Syria, said the three-year-old child's family had been living in Damascus but been forced to flee the war's instability multiple times.

"They left Damascus in 2012 and headed to Aleppo, and when clashes happened there, they moved to Kobane. And again, when clashes (with the Islamic State group) happened there, they moved to Turkey," Ebdi, who spoke with a family friend hosting Aylan's devastated father, told AFP.

Insecurity forced the family to decide they had no alternative but to try to reach Europe from Turkey, said Ebdi.

He said they stayed in Bodrum for one month, saving money and borrowing from relatives for the journey.

"They left to try to find a better life."

The family of four left the shores of Bodrum, a glitzy Aegean resort, on a small boat on Wednesday heading towards the Greek island of Kos.

But as the waves grew more volatile, their boat flipped over, and Aylan, his brother, Ghaleb, and their mother, Rihana, drowned.

Canada comes under fire

Ahead of October 19 elections, the struggle of Syrian refugees took centre stage on the Canadian campaign trail Wednesday, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisting he would do more if his Tories are re-elected.

Harper has come under fire for not taking in more Syrians. While Canada has agreed to resettle 20,000 refugees, as of late July it had only welcomed 1,002, according to government figures.

Canada's immigration minister, Chris Alexander, meanwhile told local television Wednesday before the publication of the photo that Canada has taken in "approximately 2,500" Syrian refugees.

READ ALSO: Image of Aylan Kurdi piles pressure on UK's Cameron

Turkey arrests suspected traffickers

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities have arrested four suspected human traffickers over the deaths of 12 Syrian migrants in two boat sinkings the day earlier, which included Aylan Kurdi and his family, a report said Thursday.

The four, all Syrian nationals aged between 30 and 41, are accused of "causing the death of more than one person" and "trafficking migrants", the Dogan news agency reported.

They are to appear in court later Thursday.

The United Nations stated last Friday that the number of refugees and migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean to Europe has soared past 300,000 so far this year.

Over 2,500 men, women and children have drowned trying to reach EU nations after rickety overcrowded boats operated by often unscrupulous people-smugglers capsized.