Turkish police detain four suspects in wake of drowning

Family of boys washed up on beach were trying to emigrate to Canada

Abdullah Kurdi collapsed in tears after emerging from a morgue in the city of Mugla near Bodrum, where the body of his three-year-old son Aylan washed up on Wednesday. Video: Reuters


Turkish police have detained four Syrians suspected of involvement in organising the passage of a boat which capsized, drowning 12 people including a toddler, as they travelled from Turkey to a Greek island, Dogan news agency said on Thursday.

It said that the four, including a boat captain, were held on Wednesday evening and that their questioning was continuing.

The family of two small boys whose bodies washed up on a Turkish beach were Syrian refugees who had been trying to emigrate to Canada, according to reports. Images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned with his brother Galip (5), and mother Rhian, lying face down on the shore have shocked the world.

They were among at least 12 people feared dead when their flimsy boats collapsed on Wednesday as they headed from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. The boys’ father Abdullah Kurdi is thought to have survived. Turkish media said the family had fled the besieged town of Kobani last year to escape the advance of Islamic State militants.

Aylan’s aunt, Teema Kurdi, told Canadian newspaper the Ottawa Citizen that the family were the subject of a privately sponsored refugee application that was rejected because of problems with their file in Turkey. Ms Kurdi, a hairdresser in Vancouver, who emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, said: “I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat.

“I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there.” Ms Kurdi said she was told of the deaths by her sister-in-law, adding: “She had got a call from Abdullah, and all he said was, ‘my wife and two boys are dead’.”

Canadian MP Fin Donnelly said he hand-delivered the Kurdis’ file to Canada’s citizenship and immigration authorities but the application was rejected in June. He told the Ottawa Citizen: “This is horrific and heartbreaking news. The frustration of waiting and the inaction has been terrible.”

The newspaper reported the UN would not register the family as refugees, and the Turkish government would not grant them exit visas. Canada and Turkey have reportedly been at loggerheads over the bottleneck blocking Syrian refugees in Turkey from finding their way to Canada. The Turkish government refuses to issue exit visas to unregistered refugees not holding valid passports.

Peter Sutherland earlier called on Britain to take more people fleeing Syria after shocking the pictures of the boy emerged. The UN special representative on international migration said while some countries were “massively bearing the burden” of the migrant crisis, the UK was among those that “can do more”.

A spokesman for the UK government said pictures of the three-year-old child washed up on a Turkish beach were “clearly shocking”.

However, after British prime minister David Cameron said simply taking more migrants was not the answer to the crisis, the spokesman emphasised that the UK was at the forefront of international efforts to help refugees in the region.

United response

Speaking on BBC2’s Newsnight, Mr Sutherland said that the crisis demanded a united response from Europe’s leaders and that Britain needed to play its part.

“I think that this country can do more. The only way to solve this problem is by a united European response and that means sharing responsibility for appalling suffering,” he said.

“This is a humanitarian crisis that Europe has not experienced in our time of a dimension which demands a common response.

“At the moment it is true to say that a number of countries are massively bearing the burden of this.”

While Mr Sutherland said Germany, Sweden, France and Italy were among those doing their bit, the UK government spokesman insisted Britain was also playing its part.

“These photos are clearly shocking. This is why we continue to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria — including as the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £900 million,” the spokesman said.

“In addition to this financial support, we have granted protection to almost 5,000 Syrians since the crisis began and continue to tackle the organised trafficking gangs seeking to profit from this human misery.”

Drowned three-year-old boy

The boy — seen lying face down on the shore — was reported to be one of a group of at least 12 people who drowned when their flimsy boats collapsed as they headed for the Greek island of Kos.

He was named in Turkish media reports as Aylan Kurdi who fled last year with his family from the besieged town of Kobani to escape the advance of Islamic State militants.

His five-year-old brother, Galip, and their mother, Rhian, were also reported to be among the dead.

They were reported to be among a group of 23 people who set off in two boats from the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey early on Wednesday in an attempt to make the hazardous crossing to Greek territory.

Only nine are thought to have survived, while two are believed to be still missing.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said: “This tragic image of a little boy who’s lost his life fleeing Syria is shocking and is a reminder of the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life.

“This child’s plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis.”