Update 3:30 p.m. ET: New details suggest it is unclear if B.C. family of drowned boy applied for refugee status in Canada. Here’s the latest version of events, atop the original story:
Citizenship and Immigration Canada says it received no refugee application from the father of two drowned Syrian boys who have put a devastating human face to the Syrian refugee crisis.
It did, however, receive an application for Abdullah Kurdi’s brother, Mohammed, but said it was incomplete and did not meet regulatory requirements for proof of refugee status recognition.
Hours earlier, the uncle of young Alan Kurdi — the subject of a seaside photo that has served as a heart-breaking illustration of the plight of Syrian refugees — assailed Canada’s refugee process even as questions swirled about whether his relatives had actually officially applied to enter the country as refugees.
Rocco Logozzo told The Canadian Press that the system doesn’t work, adding his family had money and plenty of room to house the Kurdi boys and their parents in Coquitlam, B.C., and had put in a private sponsorship request.
Logozzo said it was rejected in June.
A few hours later, however, Logozzo’s wife, Tima Kurdi, told a news conference that the family hadn’t made an official request for that family, but for Mohammed Kurdi. Nonetheless, her story of their attempts to bring their family members to Canada underscored the desperation and difficulties that confront would-be refugee claimants.
Tima Kurdi said she and her husband were only able to offer financial support for a single refugee application, she said, so they planned to apply for Mohammad and subsequently bring Abdullah and his family to Canada.
She added that it was impossible to secure the necessary documents for her brother, Mohammed, from Turkey.
“How would you feel when people are running from the border and the Turkish border guards are shooting in the air? What would you do?” she said.
Because she suspected an application for Abdullah would have been rejected on similar grounds, Tima said she decided to send money to bring the family across the Mediterranean by boat.
“I’m not asking the government to spend money on them,” said Tima. “I sent him the money to cross the water.”
She added a B.C. politician personally delivered a letter to Chris Alexander, the citizenship and immigration minister, asking for help from his office for the Kurdis.
The NDP candidate, Fin Donnelly, said the family had indeed pursued refugee status for the Kurdis and his letter to Alexander reflected that. He said he delivered the letter on behalf of the Kurdis to Alexander in March, but a sponsorship request was not approved.
Donnelly couldn’t be immediately reached for comment following Tima Kurdi’s news conference.
Logozzo, meantime, said his relatives were desperate.
“When they heard (the refugee application) failed, they lost all hope, and in a desperate situation, you make all these wrong decisions,” Logozzo said as he explained why his relatives opted to get on a boat in coastal Turkey, on the Aegean Sea, to try to get to Europe.
The Kurdi boys and their mother were among at least 12 migrants, including five children, who drowned Wednesday when two boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized.
Abdullah Kurdi, Tima Kurdi’s brother and the father of the boys, survived after their speed boat was struck by a large wave. Logozzo said Abdullah told his sister that he put lifejackets on both boys, but they somehow slipped off when the boat flipped over.
Alexander said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by the image of the drowned boy. His campaign said he was returning to Ottawa on Thursday to deal with the crisis.
He added Prime Minister Stephen Harper has set a target for Canada to accept 23,000 Iraqis refugees and 11,300 Syrians.
“Of that number Canada has already resettled nearly 22,000 Iraqis and 2,300 Syrians,” Alexander said.
About 250,000 people have been killed and more than one million wounded in Syria since March 2011, according to United Nations officials. More than half the country’s population has been displaced, including more than four million who have fled Syria.
The route between the Turkish community of Bodrum and Kos, just a few kilometres, is one of the shortest from Turkey to the Greek islands, but remains dangerous. Hundreds of migrants a day attempt the perilous sea crossing despite the risks.
A UN panel reported Thursday that more than 2,000 Syrians have drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe since 2011 and said there’s no end in sight to Syria’s civil war. In its 10th such report since the war began 4-1/2 years ago, the UN Human Rights Council urges the international community to help Syrian civilians.
Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body was pictured on newspaper front pages around the world Thursday, was trying to get to Europe after Canada rejected his family’s refugee application, according to a Vancouver-area politician.
Alan, his five-year-old brother Galib Kurdi and their mother, Rehan, died as they tried to reach Europe from Syria, according to Fin Donnelly, who is running for re-election in Port Moody-Coquitlam.
The boys’ father, Abdullah, survived.
Donnelly said that Abdullah’s sister, Teema Kurdi, who lives in the Vancouver area, had been trying to sponsor three Syrian relatives — including her two young nephews — and their mother, who drowned off the Turkish coast.
The politician said he delivered a letter on behalf of Kurdi to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in March but that the sponsorship request was not approved.
Kurdi told the Ottawa Citizen that she received a telephone call Wednesday from a relative who in turn had received a call from Abdullah, confirming that his wife and two boys were dead.
“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,” Kurdi told the Citizen. “I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there.”
They were among at least 12 migrants, including five children, who drowned Wednesday when two boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized.
Donnelly said Kurdi has not made any immediate plans but had mentioned a possible service locally.
“This tragic loss is just heart-wrenching to go through,” he said. “She was just completely upset and heartbroken.”
The route between Bodrum and Kos, just a few miles, is one of the shortest from Turkey to the Greek islands but remains dangerous. Hundreds of migrants a day attempt the perilous sea crossing despite the risks.
With files from The Associated Press