Friday 30 September 2016

Two on trial over deaths of migrant Aylan (3) and family

Tom Pilgrim in Bodrum

Published 12/02/2016 | 02:30

Aylan Kurdi
Aylan Kurdi

Two alleged people-smugglers have gone on trial in Turkey accused of causing the death of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, after his family's ill-fated crossing of the Mediterranean last year.

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An image of the boy, in red t-shirt and shorts, lying lifeless on a beach in Bodrum, shone a spotlight on the suffering and perils facing migrants travelling to Europe when it appeared on newspaper front-pages across the world.

The trial against Syrian nationals Muwafaka Alabash and Asem Alfrhad opened in the Aegean resort of Bodrum yesterday. The two face up to 35 years in prison each if convicted of the charges of human smuggling and causing the deaths of Kurdi and four other migrants "through deliberate negligence".

Aylan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, who survived the sinking of the boat, is also on trial in absentia over his role in the disaster. It was not immediately clear what charges he faces.

Aylan, from Kobane in northern Syria, drowned along with his five-year-old brother and their mother as they attempted to reach the Greek island of Kos in September.

Symbol

Aylan's tale saw him become a symbol of the refugee crisis across Europe and the Middle East.

Turkey has become the major hub for Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, Eritrean and other refugees and migrants seeking to undertake the risky crossing to the European Union in a flow that has caused huge alarm across the continent.

The Turkish government struck a deal with the EU in November to halt the flow of refugees, in return for €2 billion in financial aid.

But the deal and wintry weather in the Mediterranean do not appear to have deterred the migrants, with boats still arriving on the Greek islands daily.

More than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe last year, with 3,770 dying during the voyage, according to The International Organisation for Migration. Over 400 people are dead or missing since the start of 2016.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that over four million Syrians have fled their country during its five year civil war.

European leaders have struggled to respond to the crisis as the influx of refugees reaching their borders becomes an increasingly divisive issue amongst the public.

Irish Independent

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