Details about the Syrian family of the three-year old boy, who drowned as they made their way to Europe from Turkey on a small dingy, began to emerge recently and some things do not add up.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Abdullah Kurdi, the little boy’s father, was living in a relatively safe area in a Turkish town for three years while working on construction sites for 50 Turkish lira (roughly $17) a day.
However, Kurdi told a Syrian radio station it was not enough to support himself and his family and he relied on his sister Tima Kurdi, who is a 20-year resident of Canada, to assist in paying the rent.
It should be noted that Tima told reporters Thursday that the family just came to Turkey last year, even though WSJ points out he came to Turkey three years ago, and his Facebook “shows pictures of the family in Istanbul crossing the Bosporus and feeding pigeons next to the famous Yeni Cami, or new mosque.”
Tima told WSJ that their father was still in Syria and advised his son to leave Turkey and go to Europe and have his teeth fixed. Once in Europe, he was instructed to find a way to bring his entire family over from Turkey. Tima wired €1,000 ($1,100) to her brother for the trip one month ago.
According to The Ottawa Citizen, Turkey does not register thousands of Syrian Kurdish refugees in the country exit visas, as the UN does not register them as refugees. “I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours 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,” Tima told The Ottawa Citizen.
Other reports say the family was fleeing Kobane in Syria, an area that ISIS attacked previously, but the WSJ report as well as others say the family wanted to leave Turkey for reasons that were not ISIS or war related.
WSJ notes that Abdullah called her just before he was due to leave Turkey, he told his sister he planned on bringing the entire family with him to Europe, claiming his wife could not support their two sons alone.
“If we go, we go all of us,” Ms. Kurdi recounted him telling her. She said she spoke to his wife last week, who told her she was scared of the water and couldn’t swim.
“I said to her, ‘I cannot push you to go. If you don’t want to go, don’t go,’” she said. “But I guess they all decided they wanted to do it all together.”
The family boarded a 15-foot boat intended to take them from the Turkish resort town of Bodrum to the Greek Island of Kos.
According to earlier reports, the family’s application for asylum in Canada was rejected by Canada, but Canadian immigration authorities told the BBC they had no record of receiving an application for refugee status from Abdullah. Tima later admitted the asylum application for the family was never submitted.
Tragically, the boat capsized Wednesday. Twelve passengers died as a result including Abdullah’s young sons and wife. He was the only member of his family to survive, but the photo of his 3-year old drowned child on a Turkish beach made headlines across the globe.
One Australian politician blamed the father for the death of the boy when the Australian Parliament debated the refugee issue. Senator Cory Bernardi told Australia’s Parliament he was not swayed by “these emotive arguments, and in particular to characterise this as some sort of humanitarian mission”.
While acknowledging that the boy’s death was a tragedy, he said: “That boy and his family had lived in Turkey for three years. The money for that boy’s father to pay the people smugglers was sent from Canada.” He added, “The father sent them on that boat so the father could get dental treatment. They were in no fear, they were in no persecution and they were in no danger in Turkey.”