'Thank you Canada': Alan Kurdi's family arrives in Vancouver
Published Monday, December 28, 2015 7:03AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 28, 2015 10:10PM EST
Relatives of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose lifeless body was photographed washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach earlier this year, arrived in Canada on Monday.
Mohammed Kurdi, his wife and their five children touched down in Vancouver shortly before noon. They were greeted by his sister and sponsor, Tima Kurdi, and a small crowd of well-wishers waving miniature Canadian flags.
“Thank you Canada! Thank you Canada!” the Kurdi children chanted in English, during an emotional press conference for which Tima Kurdi provided translation from Arabic.
“We are very happy, finally, this is a dream come true,” said Mohammed Kurdi.
“We almost lost hope, but thank you to the Canadian government and the Canadian people who made it happen, and to the group of five (private refugee sponsors) and our family,” he added.
One of the older boys said he was thankful not only to the Canadian people and Canadian government, but also to government of Turkey, to which the family had first fled.
“I’m happy to start going to school and start a new life, but at the same time, all the thoughts in the airplane, the 10 hours, (we were) thinking about the cousin,” the boy said, according to Tima Kurdi.
Tima Kurdi then thanked a long list of people for helping get her family to Canada.
She thanked NDP MP Fin Donnelly, NDP MLA Selina Robinson, Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart and “our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for opening the door and showing the world how everyone should welcome and save lives.”
On behalf of her brother (and Alan's father) Abdullah, who has chosen not to come to Canada, she thanked the Turkish government and the Kurdistan government in the autonomous region of Iraq, where he is now living.
Kurdi also noted the “German people, who are opening the door to refugees.” Germany took in more than one million migrants in 2015, many of them from Syria.
Kurdi said her message to the refugees of the world is that “there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I walked through that tunnel,” she said. “I did not see that light yet, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end… keep walking until you find your light.”
Earlier in the day, Kurdi told CTV News Channel that while the tragedy involving her nephew has been very painful for the entire family, she hopes it serves as a reminder to the world of the plight of refugees fleeing violence.
"Even though the tragedy was very painful for us, it's opened the doors for others -- that's what counts," she said of Alan Kurdi's death. "I hope his death won't be in vain."
The three-year-old boy drowned in September along with his older brother and their mother while attempting to cross the waters between Turkey and Greece. Images of his lifeless body, face-down in the sand, helped show the world the plight of the hundreds of thousands who've fled Syria and Iraq for safety.
Alan Kurdi's father had attempted the dangerous water crossing after the Canadian government rejected his brother Mohammed's original refugee application. Canadian officials said the application didn't have the required documentation.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada later asked Tima Kurdi to re-apply for her brother, Mohammed Kurdi, and his family in mid-October.
Tima Kurdi said the entire family of seven will join her family of three in their Vancouver home. "We have enough room, and I did my best, me and my husband and my son. We made it nice and comfy," she said.
Tima Kurdi said after losing his wife and children, Abdullah Kurdi has devoted his life to helping other refugees.
Syrian refugees have been arriving in Canada on a frequent basis since the beginning of December. The Liberals have committed to taking in 25,000 refugees by the end of February, although they admit they will likely fall short of their revised target to settle 10,000 by the end of the year.
With files from The Canadian Press