In death, a three-year-old boy has become the face of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. That boy has been named by his father as Aylan Kurdi, originally from Kobane in war-torn Syria. He was killed along with his brother, Galip, and mother, Rehan, when their flotilla capsized as they made a desperate attempt to leave Turkey where they had been living on September 2.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Kurdi Family Was Trying to Get to Canada
The family were attempting to flee to Canada where they had relatives, reports the Ottawa Citizen. Only the patriarch, Abdullah, survived their attempt. His family told the Citizen that Abdullah intends to go back to Kobane to bury his family. That city has been among the worst hit during the constant fighting between ISIS, Kurdish rebels and the Syrian army. Ghuson Kurdi, Abdullah’s sister-in-law, spoke to him just after the disaster, he told her ‘My wife and two boys are dead,” reports the National Post. Abdullah Kurdi told CNN that his family were in their third attempt to get to Greece, and their plan had been to head to Sweden and then Canada.
2. The Flotilla That the Kurdis Were Traveling in Was Overcrowded
In total 12 people died on the flotilla with the Kurdi family. The Guardian reports that they were all Syrian nationals who got on the boat in Akyarlar, which is the closest Turkish point to the Greek island of Kos. The boat had been overloaded and capsized, its captain had abandoned ship. The dead bodies washed up on beaches in the Turkish town of Bodrum. Speaking to the Turkish news agency, Dogan via the BBC, Abdullah Kurdi said he tried to hold on to his children as their boat capsized and sank. He said “I was holding my wife’s hand. But my children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming. The last thing I remember is when we got off the boat, an hour later we got onto another boat with a Turkish man. There were 12 of us and it was overloaded. With the man who operated the boat, there were 13 of us.”
3. The Family’s Refugee Claim Was Rejected by the Canadian Government
Canadian politician Fin Donnelly had delivered the Kurdi family’s refugee application to the country’s immigration minister Chris Alexander personally in March 2015, but it was refused, reports the Globe and Mail. Donnelly told the paper “This tragic loss is just heartwrenching to go through. She was just completely upset and heartbroken.” He added that the Syrian community in Vancouver may hold a memorial service for the family. CBS News reports that the family’s application in Canada was refused because they weren’t able to get exit visas in Turkey.
4. His Family Said the Treatment of Syrians in Turkey Is ‘Horrible’
The National Post reports that Abdullah’s family had been trying to sponsor the family for refugee status in Canada. Local laws say that a family must have sponsorship from five different people who agree to provide financial support to the new arrivals. Aylan Kurdi’s aunt, Ghuson, told the National Post “I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbors 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.” Ghuson Kurdi and her family have lived in Vancouver for over 20 years.
5. 4 People Have Been Arrested in Relation to the Drownings
Four people, including one Syrian man, has been arrested by police in Turkey, accused of being part of a people smuggling ring, reports the Daily Telegraph.