Aunt had tried to sponsor drowned toddler

The family of two small boys whose bodies washed up on a Turkish beach were Syrian refugees who had been trying to emigrate to Canada, according to reports.


Images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned with his brother Galip, 5, and mother Rhian, lying face down on the shore have shocked the world and prompted renewed calls for the UK to take in more refugees.

They were among at least 12 people feared dead when their flimsy boats collapsed on Wednesday as they headed from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. 

Turkish media said the family had fled the besieged town of Kobane last year to escape the advance of Islamic State militants.

Aylan’s aunt, Teema Kurdi, told Canadian newspaper the Ottawa Citizen that the family were the subject of a privately sponsored refugee application that was rejected because of problems with their file in Turkey.

Kurdi, a hairdresser in Vancouver, who emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, said: “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.”

Teema Kurdi said she was told of the deaths by her sister-in-law, adding: “She had got a call from Abdullah, and all he said was, ‘my wife and two boys are dead’.”

Canadian MP Fin Donnelly said he hand-delivered the Kurdis’ file to Canada’s citizenship and immigration authorities, but the application was rejected in June.

He told the Ottawa Citizen: “This is horrific and heartbreaking news. The frustration of waiting and the inaction has been terrible.”

The newspaper reported the UN would not register the family as refugees, and the Turkish government would not grant them exit visas.

The heart-rending images of Aylan’s lifeless body lying in the surf at one of Turkey’s main tourist resorts put a human face on the dangers experienced by thousands of desperate people seeking a new life in Europe.

The bleak image spread like wildfire through social media and dominated front pages from Spain to Sweden.

Circulating with the Turkish hashtag “#KiyiyaVuranInsanlik” (“Humanity washed ashore”), the picture made it to Twitter’s top world trending topics.

“Tiny victim of a human catastrophe,” said Britain’s Daily Mail, while Italy’s La Repubblica tweeted the words: “One photo to silence the world.”

“If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?” Britain’s Independent said, in remarks echoed in newspapers across the continent.