Canada denies Alan Kurdi's family applied for asylum

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Media caption,

"I can't even imagine how my brother feels", the boy's aunt said

Canada has denied it received a bid for asylum from the family of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was found washed up on a beach in Turkey.

The aunt of Alan Kurdi earlier said his family's request for refugee status had been rejected, but later acknowledged it had never been submitted.

The Canadian government has come under fire for not taking in more Syrians.

Alan drowned alongside his brother, 5, and mother after their boat capsized as they tried to reach Greece from Turkey.

Images of the toddler's body sparked global outcry over the human cost of the migrant crisis.

He is just one of thousands of people who have died this year trying to reach Europe by sea, fleeing war and conflict in their home countries.

'Didn't deserve to die'

His family fled the Syrian border town of Kobane into Turkey after it came under repeated attack by Islamic State militants earlier this year, his aunt Teema Kurdi said on Thursday.

"They didn't deserve to die, they didn't. They were going for a better life. That shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened to them," she said at a press conference, before breaking down in tears.

The Canadian immigration authorities said on Thursday they had no record of receiving an application for refugee status from Alan's father, Abdullah Kurdi.

But Abdullah's brother, Mohammad, did submit an application, though it was rejected for being incomplete, they added.

The statement comes after both a Canadian legislator and Teema Kurdi said on Thursday that Alan's family had submitted an application.

But Teema later seemed to backtrack, telling reporters she had hoped to sponsor Alan's father and his bid for refugee asylum after their brother Mohammad's bid was denied.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Alan's father Abdullah described the terrifying moment he saw his wife and children die

Read more about Alan and his family's story:

"To be honest I don't want to just blame the Canadian government. I'm blaming the whole world for this," she said.

Brewing immigration row

According to Canadian journalist Terry Glavin, who spoke to the aunt in Vancouver, Alan's father Abdullah had been kidnapped during the Islamic State siege Kobane earlier this year and had all of his teeth pulled out.

He eventually managed to get his family across the border into Turkey, where they then encountered problems trying to get out of the country after being denied exit visas.

As Alan's story came to light, Canada's Immigration Minister Chris Alexander decided to suspend part of his re-election campaign for the October polls to investigate reports that the family had applied for asylum.

Image source, Agency
Image caption,
Alan (L), 3, his brother Ghalib, 5, and their mother died trying to get to Greece by boat this week

"The tragic photo of young Alan Kurdi and the news of the death of his brother and mother broke hearts around the world," the minister said in a statement on Thursday.

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper also came under attack from opposition Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for not accepting more refugees, suggesting the minister was doing too little too late.

"You don't get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign. You either have it or you don't," Mr Trudeau said during a campaign stop on Thursday.

He urged the Canadian authorities to allow in 25,000 Syrian refugees.

What is Canada's immigration policy for Syrians?

  • Canada's government in January announced plans to resettle 10,000 refugees over three years
  • But it came under fire for saying it would prioritise persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, such as Christians. Rights groups label the policy as discrimination by religion
  • As of late July, Canada has only welcomed 1,002 Syrians, according to government figures
  • But Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said on Thursday Canada had taken in "approximately 2,500" to date
  • The Conservatives are pledging to bring in an additional 10,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq if re-elected in October