Update, 3:30 p.m. ET, Sept. 3:
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.
OTTAWA — A refugee advocacy group says two young boys who drowned off the coast of Turkey could be alive today if Canada had responded better to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Alan Kurdi, 3, and his brother Galib, 5, died with their mother while fleeing to Europe after their application to resettle in Canada was denied.
The Canadian Council for Refugees is calling for Syrians with family in Canada to be allowed entry immediately to complete processing in safety.
The council wants flexible measures — such as temporary resident permits —for Syrians with relatives in Canada.
It notes the boys had an aunt in Canada and likely would have been able to get a Turkish exit permit if they were leaving to reunite with family.
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers accused the Conservative government of turning its back on desperate people. “This Syrian refugee crisis is one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of the past century and this government has utterly failed to respond in any meaningful way.”
The Conservatives have said their approach balances humanitarian assistance with a military effort against radicals rampaging through Syria.
In January, the government promised 10,000 Syrian refugees a home in Canada over the next three years.
They say that, as of late July, 1,002 people had resettled in Canada as part of that commitment. That’s in addition to 1,300 Syrians settled under a pledge made in 2013.
The council for refugees urges an immediate commitment to a minimum of 10,000 government-assisted resettlement places for Syrians, in addition to Canada’s regular resettlement numbers.
Current Canadian promises to take in Syrian refugees are made within existing commitments, so the numbers simply displace other refugees, the council said.
In past refugee crises Canada responded quickly and decisively, the council said Thursday. “In 1999 Canada took extraordinary measures to evacuate thousands of Kosovar refugees. The same level of commitment is needed now.”
The council also wants elimination of barriers to the private sponsorship of refugees, including restoration of full interim federal health coverage and lifting of document requirements for groups who offer to sponsor refugees.
“These small boys could be alive today, if Canada had responded more appropriately to the Syrian refugee crisis,” said Loly Rico, the council’s president.
“We shouldn’t need to wait for a tragedy like this to realize we must open our doors. We don’t want to see any more children die in this way.”