The father of a three-year-old Syrian boy photographed lying dead on a Turkish beach has described how their overloaded boat flipped over in the sea and he quickly realised his two sons and his wife had drowned.
The picture of Aylan Kurdi has highlighted the plight of desperate migrants risking their lives to try to reach Europe, a wave of migration driven by war and deprivation unparalleled since the Second World War.
Abdullah Kurdi said yesterday that the boat’s captain panicked because of high waves and jumped into the sea, leaving him in control of the small craft with his family and other migrants aboard.
“I took over and started steering. The waves were so high and the boat flipped. I took my wife and my kids in my arms and I realised they were all dead,” he said.
The distraught father added: “All I want is to be with my children at the moment.”
He said the small boat, headed for the Greek island of Kos, was overloaded with 12 migrants and the captain, described as a Turkish man. It was only at sea for four minutes before the captain abandoned the craft, Mr Kurdi said.
“My kids were the most beautiful children in the world, wonderful, they wake me up every morning to play with them. They are all gone now.”
Mr Kurdi sister, Teema Kurdi, said the family – her brother Abdullah, his wife Rehan and their two boys, three-year-old Aylan and five-year-old Galip – embarked on the perilous boat journey only after their bid to move to Canada was rejected.
She had sought to get Canadian refugee status for her relatives in the Syrian town of Kobani, which was devastated by battles between Islamic State and Kurdish fighters, said Canadian legislator Fin Donnelly. Donnelly submitted the application on the family’s behalf.
Canadian immigration authorities rejected the application, in part because of the family’s lack of exit visas to ease their passage out of Turkey and their lack of internationally recognised refugee status.