Thursday, September 3, 2015

Father of drowned Syrian boy declines Canadian citizenship offer

The father of a Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach says his boys "slipped away" from his hands after their rowboat capsized trying to reach the Greek island of Kos from Turkey with several other refugees.

The death of Aylan Kurdi, 3, who drowned along with his brother, Gulip, 5, and mother, Reham, has drawn worldwide attention to the Syrian refugee crisis and placed the Canadian government under fire after it emerged the family had been trying to come here as refugees.

The boys' father, Abdullah Kurdi, also said today Canadian officials have now offered him citizenship after seeing what happened, but he has declined.

Kurdi spoke publicly for the first time Thursday after he identified the bodies of his wife and sons in a Turkish morgue and prepared to take them home to Syria.

"I was holding my wife's hand, my children slipped away from my hands," he said in a statement to police obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

"Everyone was screaming in pitch darkness. I couldn't make my voice heard to my wife and kids."

Kurdi's sister, Fatima, immigrated to Canada several years ago and had been trying since at least March to help Aylan and his family get refugee status in Canada, according to relatives and NDP MP Fin Donnelly.

Aylan Kurdi, left, and his older brother Gulip, seen in an undated family photo, drowned along with their mother trying to escape Syria. (Twitter)

She said Wednesday that she saw the heartbreaking photo of the little boy lying face down on a beach near the Turkish resort town of Bodrum and believed it was her nephew — which her brother later confirmed.

In an email to CBC News, she said the Canadian government had refused the family's application for refugee status.

"They did not deserve their fate, and the government of Canada bears responsibility for their deaths," said the grieving aunt.

Kurdi approached Donnelly in March for help with sponsoring her relatives as refugees, said the MP, who represents New Westminster-Coquitlam but is running in the Port Moody Coquitlam riding in the Oct. 19 federal election.

"She was very concerned, obviously, with what was going on in Syria and wanted to get her family out," Donnelly told CBC on Wednesday.

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