COQUITLAM, B.C. — The aunt of a drowned Syrian boy whose death has sparked worldwide awareness about the plight of refugees in Europe says she still hopes to bring the rest of her family to Canada.
Tima Kurdi said through tears outside her home in Coquitlam, B.C., that she plans to help her brother, Abdullah, and her other siblings immigrate to the country she made home more than two decades ago.
Abdullah isn't ready to leave the Syrian city where his sons, three-year-old Alan and five-year-old Ghalib, and wife Rehanna were buried on Friday, she said.
Kurdi's two nephews and sister-in-law drowned earlier this week after piling into an overloaded boat in Bodrum, Turkey, headed for he Greek island of Kos. Her brother was among the few survivors.
"We're all emotionally affected by what happened right now," Kurdi said, surrounded by framed photos of her nephews. "I'm sure he (will) refuse and he doesn't want to leave Kobani,'' she said referring to the family's Syrian hometown, which they attempted to escape.
"But one day, I will bring him here. He cannot be by himself there."
Kurdi has previously said she wanted to bring both her brothers to Canada, but she applied first for her eldest sibling Mohammad, whose application was rejected because it was incomplete.
Kurdi said Mohammad's failed application prompted Abdullah to embark on the risky journey with his family. She said she sent him $5,000 to pay smugglers to take them in a boat.
Asked whether her brother blames himself, Kurdi said no.
"I am the one who should be at blame,'' she said. "I blame myself because my brother does not have money. I sent him the money to pay the smuggler. If I didn't send him the money, those people still (would be) alive."
She said the trip was the "only option" left for the family to have a better life in a European country, possibly Germany or Sweden.
They were fleeing horrors in Syria, where ISIS militants had beheaded one of her sister-in-law's relatives. Kurdi said her brother had emailed her a photo of the murder but she deleted it because it was too horrific.
Abdullah knew of the dangers, including the risk of smugglers using fake life-jackets, she said, adding he had planned to pay 2,000 euros each for him and his wife to board a safer jet boat, compared to 1,200 euros for a rubber boat. There was no fee for the two boys.
Photos of Alan's lifeless body on a beach in Turkey have put Canada's refugee policy in the spotlight amid the federal election, though Kurdi said she doesn't blame the Canadian government.
She said she hopes Citizenship and Immigration Canada stops requiring a document missing from Mohammad's application because it's impossible for people to secure the necessary paperwork in the midst of a crisis in Syria.
Kurdi said she hadn't heard from anyone in the federal government since the heartbreaking photo of her dead nephew jolted the world earlier this week.
Family friends have set up an online fundraising campaign to help the Kurdi family. A memorial for the boys will also be held in Vancouver on Saturday.
Kurdi spoke to both her brothers by phone on Friday and watched emotional video on CNN of her two young nephews being buried in Kobani.
She said she desperately wished she could be there with her brother to say goodbye.
"Abdullah said to me, 'I don't want you to come. It's dangerous,'" she said, weeping. "I (could) stay there for the rest of my life, sitting beside their grave, feed them, give them water."
Her grieving brother is proud of his kids for becoming a symbol of the dire situation facing Syrian refugees, and hopes to see leaders step in to end human smuggling, Kurdi said.
"He said, 'I don't need anything from this world anymore. What I have is gone.' But my kids, and my wife, it's a wake-up call for the world. And hopefully they step in and help others."
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