The crisis of Syrian refugees hit home for many B.C. residents as the aunt of the young boy who drowned trying to reach Greece lives in B.C. Two-year old Alan Kurdi drowned along with his mother and older brother, five-year old Galib. His father, Abdullah was the only member of the family to survive.
The image of the young boy on the beach has gone viral; bringing into focus the desperate measures families are taking to escape the fighting and highlighting the global connectedness between Syria and the rest of the world.
John Morton confirmed that the United Church will be accepting donations through the Credit Union. Details of the program through the church weren’t available as of press time but locals can donate through the Credit Union to account 814-4 “Special Needs – Syria.”
Abdullah’s sister, Tima Kurdi, lives in Coquitlam and but sent them the money to assist them in their dangerous crossing in an attempt to escape their war-torn homeland.
Thousands of migrants are arriving daily on Greek Islands on overcrowded dinghys after making the dangerous 800-mile crossing of the Mediterranean from Syria or Turkey delivered by smugglers. The influx of people has overwhelmed the island’s small population, stretching already limited resources.
For example, the Greek island of Lesbos, with some 100,000 residents, has been transformed by the sudden new population of about 20,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tima Kurdi says her brother and his wife Reham wanted to bring Alan and his older brother Galib to Canada, although she made it clear no formal process had begun at the time of their death. Citizenship and Immigration confirmed her statement.
The photo got the world’s attention and has had reverberations into Canadians conscience: donations to aid groups are pouring in and provincial leaders are asking Ottawa to open the door to Syrian refugees.
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Diane Whalen has asked the federal government to “open the door to Canada” and send Syrian refugees to this province.
She said Lena Diab, the province’s immigration minister, has been in touch with Ottawa but there has been no response yet.
“We are willing and able. They are well aware of our interest,” Whalen said last week. “The scope of the crisis is huge. We’re trying to do something. It is almost unbelievable to see the level of suffering.”
So far Germany and Austria have accepted the largest numbers of refugees, opening their borders last week and welcoming thousands of migrants who made the remainder of their journey on foot through neighbouring countries such as Hungary.
Germany is preparing to receive an estimated 800,000 by the end of the year, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said other EU nations should take some of those people.
Here in North America the crisis quickly found its way into the federal election campaign. The Conservative government were quick to defend their record on refugee immigration, but numbers released by the United Nations last week told a different story.
A United Nations report reveals that Canada is at the bottom of a top-15 list of receiving countries. In 2014, Canada received 13,500 asylum claims, about one-third more than the year before. In comparison, Sweden, a small Nordic country with 9.6 million people and a quarter of Canada’s population, admitted 75,100 refugees last year.
During a campaign event in B.C., Prime Minister Harper said military action is also needed to address to root cause of the refugee crisis.
“And I do not know how, for the life of me, you look at that picture and say, ‘Yeah, we want to help that family, but we want to walk away from the military mission that’s trying to prevent ISIS from killing tens of millions of people,’’” Harper said.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said during an interview on CBC News Network last week that Canada needs to “accelerate the processing times” of refugee applications, saying that the government is currently far from hitting its goal.
Opposition candidates have focused mostly on immediately accepting more refugees.
“The international community has failed. Canada has failed. I just want us to start acting now, as do all Canadians,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called for a meeting with all leaders to discuss the crisis.
Since the conflict more than four million people have fled the country, many of them pouring into neighbouring countries. But after finding themselves in underfunded and overcrowded refugee camps there, many are now taking the bigger risks of trying to find a new life in Europe.
“They didn’t deserve to die,” Abdullah Kurdi’s sister, Tima Kurdi, told reporters in Coquitlam, “There is one thing should be done, to end the war. I’m blaming the whole world for this, not helping enough the refugees.”