Coquitlam: The 3-year-old in blue shorts and a red T-shirt photographed face-down in the surf set out for Europe only after Canada had rejected his family’s refugee application, a Canadian lawmaker says.
Images of Aylan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach have heightened global attention to a wave of migration, driven by war and deprivation, that is unparalleled since World War II. They are also raising pressure on governments to be more welcoming to refugees fleeing the horror that Syria has become.
The uncle of the three-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body has put a devastating human face on the Syrian refugee crisis has assailed Canada’s refugee process.
Rocco Logozzo told The Canadian Press that the system doesn’t work, adding his family had money and plenty of room to house little Aylan Kurdi and his brother and parents at his home in Coquitlam and had put in a private sponsorship request.
Instead, the family and a B.C. politician says Canada rejected the request in June. It wasn’t immediately clear why they were turned down.
“The whole thing was designed to fail … 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.
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.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, those who are abroad but outside their home countries and seeking refuge must either be referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or another referral agency, or be sponsored by a private sponsor.
They must be selected as a government-assisted or privately sponsored refugee, or have the funds needed to support themselves and any dependents after arriving in Canada.
Logozzo said he and wife, Tima Kurdi, have been grieving since hearing the news that their nephews, Aylan and his five-year-old brother, Galip, and their mother, Rehan, died as they tried to reach their destination.
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.
Logozzo said the boys’ father, Abdullah, who is Tima Kurdi’s brother, survived after their speed boat was struck by a large wave. He said Abdullah told his sister that he put lifejackets on both boys, but they somehow slipped off when the boat flipped over.
Tima Kurdi was too heartbroken to talk at length on Thursday.
“I’m not feeling well,” she said through sobs. “I can’t talk.”
Fin Donnelly, who is running for re-election in Port Moody-Coquitlam, has been working with Logozza and his wife in their attempts to bring their relatives to Canada.
The NDP politician said he delivered a letter on behalf of Kurdi to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in March, but the sponsorship request was not approved.
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.
“The tragic photo of young Aylan Kurdi and the news of the death of his brother and mother broke hearts around the world,” Alexander said. “I am meeting with officials to ascertain both the facts of the case of the Kurdi family and to receive an update on the migrant 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.
By Liam Casey, The Canadian Press,
With files from The Associated Press and Geordon Omand in Vancouver
© 2015 The Canadian Press