Aunt had tried to sponsor family who drowned off Turkey

A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of an unidentified migrant child, lifting it from the sea shore, near the Turkish resort of Bodrum, Turkey, early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. A number of migrants are known to have died and some are still reported missing, after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized. (AP Photo/DHA) TURKEY OUT

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The 3-year-old in blue shorts and a red T-shirt photographed face-down in the surf set out for Europe only after Canada had rejected his family’s refugee application, a Canadian lawmaker says.

Images of Aylan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach have heightened global attention to a wave of migration, driven by war and deprivation, that is unparalleled since World War II. They are also raising pressure on governments to be more welcoming to refugees fleeing the horror that Syria has become.

Aylan’s aunt, who lives in the Vancouver area, had sought to get Canadian refugee status for her relatives in the Syrian town of Kobani, which was devastated by battles between Islamic State and Kurdish fighters, legislator Fin Donnelly told The Canadian Press. Donnelly submitted the application on the family’s behalf.

Canadian immigration authorities rejected the application, in part because of the family’s lack of exit visas to ease their passage out of Turkey and their lack of internationally recognized refugee status, the aunt, Teema Kurdi, told the newspaper the Ottawa Citizen. It said she is a hair stylist who moved to Canada more than 20 years ago.

Teema Kurdi said the family — her brother Abdullah, his wife Rehan and their two boys, 3-year-old Aylan and 5-year-old Galip— embarked on the perilous boat journey only after their bid to move to Canada was rejected.

“I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbors who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat,” she told the Citizen.

Canada’s immigration minister Thursday suspended his re-election campaign to travel to Ottawa and look into why the Canadian government rejected the request. A senior government official said Chris Alexander wanted to determine the facts of the case.

The tides also washed up the bodies of Rehan and Galip on Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula Wednesday. Abdullah survived the tragedy. In all, 12 migrants drowned when two boats carrying them from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Kos capsized.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said eight of the 12 were children. It said four suspected people-smugglers were detained Thursday on suspicion of acting as intermediaries in the illegal trafficking.

The agency said the suspects include at least one Syrian citizen. They are expected to appear in court Thursday to face charges.

Images of Aylan’s body washing up on the shore and being taken away by a Turkish officer brought witnesses to tears and caused of wave of horror and reflection Thursday. The image was widely used in newspapers and on social media, leading some lawmakers to demand action.

In Britain, United Nations refugee agency representative Laura Padoan said publication of the photographs of Aylan may spark a major change in the public’s perception of the burgeoning crisis.

“I think a lot of people will think about their own families and their own children in relation to those images,” she said. “It is difficult for politicians to turn their backs on those kind of images and the very real tragedy that is happening.”

Labour Party legislator Ann Clywd said constituents have been calling her since the photographs appeared.

“People are horrified,” she told The Associated Press. “People are saying, ‘Please, can we do something, this is disgraceful.'”

Lawmaker Nadhim Zahawi said on Twitter that the picture should “make us all ashamed.”

“I am sorry little angel, RIP,” he wrote.

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Katz reported from London. Rob Gillies in Toronto also contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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