Thursday 19 April 2018

'They must see what happened to my little sons'

Tragic refugee Aylan buried by heartbroken dad

Relatives carry the body of Aylan Kurdi (3) during his funeral procession in Kobane, Syria
Relatives carry the body of Aylan Kurdi (3) during his funeral procession in Kobane, Syria

Raziye Akkoc in Vienna

A heartbroken Syrian father buried his wife and his two little boys, drowned as they tried to flee to Europe.

In the Syrian town of Kobane, three-year-old Aylan Kurdi was laid to rest alongside his mother and five-year-old brother at "Martyr's Cemetery" in the predominantly Kurdish community near the Turkish border.

Images of the tiny body of Aylan washed up on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum focused the world's attention on the wave of migration fuelled by war and deprivation.

While pressure is rising on European governments to tackle the crisis more effectively, the boys' weeping father, Abdullah Kurdi, called on countries closer to home to act.

"I want Arab governments - not European countries - to see (what happened to) my children, and because of them to help people," he said in footage posted online by a local radio station.


The three bodies were flown to a city near Turkey's border with Syria, from where police-protected funeral vehicles made their way to the border town of Suruc and crossed into Kobane.

The ambulances drove past sobbing mourners, Kurdish flags and Kobane's shelled-out buildings, to the cemetery.

Aylan's body was discovered on a Turkish beach on Wednesday after the small rubber boat he and his family were in capsized.

They were among 12 migrants who drowned off the coast of Bodrum that day.

The route between Bodrum in Turkey and Kos, just a few kilometres, is one of the shortest from Turkey to the Greek islands, but it remains dangerous. Hundreds of people a day try to cross it despite the well-documented risks.

With the burial, Mr Abdullah abandoned any plans of leaving his homeland again. "He only wanted to go to Europe for the sake of his children," said Suleiman Kurdi, an uncle of the grieving father.

"Now that they're dead, he wants to stay here in Kobane next to them."

Scores of mourners clustered around as the bodies were laid in the dry, bare earth of the Martyrs Cemetery. Clouds of dust rose as dirt was shovelled over the graves.

A Canadian legislator said the family, fleeing the conflict in Syria, had been turned down in a bid for legal entry to Canada even though it had close relatives there offering financial backing and shelter, but Canada's Department of Citizenship and Immigration later denied that assertion.

Yesterday Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the migration influx into Europe will be the continent's most important challenge for years and that European nations cannot refuse asylum to those who deserve it.

But Mr Rajoy would not commit Spain to taking more than the 2,739 refugees it has pledged to accept. His position has been criticised by opposition politicians and contrasts with the 800,000 migrants Germany expects to take in this year.

However, the prime ministers of Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics have rejected the proposal of migrant quotas, branding the idea as "unacceptable" in a further blow to the chances of finding a European consensus on the migration crisis.


The rejection came following a meeting of the four countries - known collectively as the Visegrad Group - in Prague on yesterday.

In a joint statement, the leaders said: "Preserving the voluntary nature of EU solidarity measures - so that each member state may build on its experience, best practices and available resources; principles agreed at the highest political level, including in European Council conclusions, must be respected. Any proposal leading to introduction of mandatory and permanent quota for solidarity measures would be unacceptable."

Meanwhile, Faisal Alazem, who leads the Syrian Canadian council, has said Syrians around the world are "emotionally devastated" at what happened to Aylan Kurdi and his family.

"There are more than 2,000 Syrians who have died in the same way as Aylan.

"Whenever people escape Syria they think that they are safe. They have fled Isil, Assad, the bombs. But no, they are still very vulnerable. They are unable to work and they know the war will take a long time. So they are looking for long term solutions.

"The problem is there is no legal process by which they can leave.

"The embassies don't accept applications and in so doing, we are encouraging them to make this dangerous journey by sea."

Hundreds of migrants and refugees who set off from Budapest's railway station yesterday morning at 10am were last night about 15km from central Budapest on the M1 motorway to Vienna.

The exodus took place alongside afternoon commuter traffic, with a wailing escort of police, and a helicopter overhead.

"My country is very poor. We have had 18 years of war," one refugee said in broken English, adding he had come from a refugee camp in Turkey where he had lived for several years.

Irish Independent

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