VANCOUVER — The aunt of a Syrian toddler whose lifeless body pictured on a Mediterranean beach sparked worldwide outrage over a refugee crisis says the flights have been booked to bring some of her relatives to Canada.
Tima Kurdi said her brother Mohammad Kurdi, along with his wife and five children, are scheduled to arrive into Vancouver the morning of Dec. 28.
Mohammad is the uncle of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy who died alongside his mother and older brother when their overcrowded boat flipped while crossing the treacherous waters between Turkey and Greece.
Tima Kurdi looks at photos of her three-year-old nephew, Alan Kurdi, who drowned trying to flee Syria earlier this year. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
Tima described informing her sister-in-law after learning Saturday morning that Citizenship and Immigration Canada had finalized the family's travel arrangements.
"I phoned them and I said, 'They booked you Dec. 28.''' said Tima on Sunday when reached by phone at her Vancouver-area home.
"And first she said to the kids, 'Oh my God, the flight is booked Dec. 28.' And the kids were screaming. And she was like, 'Really? Seriously?' And we started crying and crying and crying. ... There were no words after that, just crying and tears.
"It was the most emotional phone call,'' she said. "It almost took me back to that news when I heard about my nephew (Alan).''
"... We started crying and crying and crying. ... There were no words after that, just crying and tears. It was the most emotional phone call."
Mohammad Kurdi has been in Germany since leaving his family in Turkey seven months ago to find work. He has yet to meet his youngest child, who was born in July. The family will reunite in Frankfurt before flying together to Canada.
Tima is in the process of opening a hair salon in Port Coquitlam, B.C., where she said Mohammad will join her as a barber. Back in Turkey his 14-year-old, eldest son Chergo worked in a clothing factory to help support the family during his father's absence, but he will go to school once he arrives in Canada, said Tima.
"Of course — this is the first thing he has to do,'' she said. "He's not going to be working.''
A long road to Canada
Citizenship and Immigration Canada rejected an initial application from Tima to bring Mohammad and his family to Canada, saying it was missing the necessary paperwork. But Tima said officials were asking for a difficult-to-obtain United Nations document, which they were unable to find.
It was that initial rejection that prompted Alan's father Abdullah to try the deadly boat journey, she said.
Abdullah paid smugglers to help him and his family make the crossing, but the trip ended in disaster when the overloaded vessel capsized, leaving Abdullah as one of the few survivors.
Abdullah Kurdi stands in his son Alan's room on Sept. 6, 2015 in Kobane. Abdullah lost his wife and sons after they drowned trying to flee Syria across the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo: Yasin Akgul/Getty)
The case occurred in the middle of the federal election campaign and became a major issue for several days.
Abdullah initially blamed Canada in part for his family's deaths, but Tima said those feelings have waned.
He has since lost the motivation to come to Canada and instead is working with the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq helping to open a charity for refugee children, she added.
The Liberal government plans to resettle 25,000 refugees in Canada by the end of February, backing away from an earlier campaign commitment to have those people in the country by the end of the year.
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