The family of a Syrian boy whose dead body washed up on a Turkish beach had been trying to emigrate to Canada, a report said Thursday.
The bleak image of the lifeless toddler lying face down in the sand has become a poignant image of the plight of Syrian refugees and quickly went viral Wednesday.
He was believed to be one of at least 12 migrants who died trying to reach Greece when their boats sank in Turkish waters.
The Ottawa Citizen reported that the sister of the boy’s father — reportedly the only survivor of the family of four — were the “subject of a ‘G5’ privately sponsored refugee application” that Canada’s immigration authorities rejected in June.
“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,” the newspaper quoted Teema Kurdi, a Vancouver hairdresser, as saying.
“I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there.”
Kurdi emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, according to the paper.
Ahead of October 19 elections, the struggle of Syrian refugees took center stage on the Canadian campaign trail Wednesday, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisting he would do more if his Tories are re-elected.
Harper has come under fire for not taking in more Syrians. While Canada has agreed to resettle 20,000 refugees, as of late July it had only welcomed 1,002, according to government figures.
Canada’s immigration minister, Chris Alexander, meanwhile told local television Wednesday before the publication of the photo that Canada has taken in “approximately 2,500” Syrian refugees.