Relatives of drowned Syrian boy land in Canada

By The Canadian Press
December 28, 2015 - 12:40pm Updated: December 29, 2015 - 1:32am

VANCOUVER — Relatives of a Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach landed in Vancouver on Monday.

Mohammed Kurdi, his wife and their five children have come to Canada as refugees, sponsored by his sister Tima Kurdi, who has become a spokeswoman for people fleeing the war-torn nation.

Tima Kurdi wiped away tears as she greeted her relatives at the airport's arrival gates.

Speaking through his sister, who translated from Arabic, Mohammed Kurdi thanked Canadians and their government for making his dreams come true.

"I'm happy! Very happy!" he said in English to a crowd of reporters gathered around the family.

His teenage son Shergo said he was looking forward to going back to school and starting a new life.

The reunion comes at the end of a difficult year for the family.

Tima and Mohammed's three-year-old nephew, Alan Kurdi, drowned along with his five-year-old brother and their mother while crossing the waters between Turkey and Greece in September.

A photo of the boy's body face down in the surf sparked international sorrow and momentum to help Syrian refugees.

Alan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, decided to attempt the treacherous trip after his brother Mohammed's original refugee application was rejected by the Canadian government because it did not have the necessary documentation.

An official with Citizenship and Immigration Canada invited Tima Kurdi to re-apply for Mohammed and his family in mid-October, as the government was no longer asking for difficult-to-obtain United Nations documents.

Mohammed Kurdi has been in Germany since leaving his family in Turkey seven months ago to find work. He had yet to meet his youngest child, who was born in July, but the family reunited in Frankfurt before flying to Canada.

The Kurdis are among 25,000 Syrian refugees the Canadian government has pledged to welcome by the end of February.

Immigration Minister John McCallum said last week the government will likely not meet its target of having 10,000 of them on Canadian soil by Jan. 1.

The federal website that updates progress listed 2,413 refugees as having arrived in Canada by Boxing Day.

Mohammed Kurdi, his wife and children will all stay with Tima Kurdi and her family for now. The brother and sister are planning to work together at Tima Kurdi's new hair salon in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Kurdi Hair Design.


Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

©2015 The Canadian Press

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