Syrian toddler's dad: 'Everything I was dreaming of is gone' - KMOV.com

Syrian toddler's dad: 'Everything I was dreaming of is gone'

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Authorities in Bodrum, Turkey, stand near the body of a child who washed ashore on Wednesday, September 2. The child was one of 12 refugees who drowned during a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos. Authorities in Bodrum, Turkey, stand near the body of a child who washed ashore on Wednesday, September 2. The child was one of 12 refugees who drowned during a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos.

By Ashley Fantz and Catherine E. Shoichet 

(CNN) - Two-year-old Aylan Kurdi was born into a country eaten up by war. His parents, Abdullah and Rehen, only wanted a better life for Aylan and his 4-year-old brother, Galip, than they had in Kobani, Syria.

They wanted what anyone does -- what hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence, who have flooded Europe, want -- a safe home.

Trying to make that simple but treacherous dream a reality, Aylan, his brother and mother drowned. An image of the boy's body on a Turkish beach shook social media and outraged leaders in Canada, where the family had hoped to wind up, and many others watching the European migrant crisis unfold.

On Thursday, four Syrian citizens were taken into custody, suspected of human trafficking in connection with their deaths and those of nine others whose bodies washed ashore, according to Turkey's semiofficial Anadolu news agency.

Abdullah, the only family member to survive the trip, says he has nothing left to live for. "I don't want anything else from this world," he told CNN on Thursday. "Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die."

Trying to get to Canada

Abdullah's sister Tima Kurdi, who lives in Vancouver, had filed refugee paperwork to obtain permission for the family to live in Canada, but the application had been rejected in June, according to Canadian Member of Parliament Fin Donnelly.

Tima Kurdi informed Donnelly that Abdullah called her to tell her that the boys and their mother died trying to make the crossing from Turkey to Greece.

The world learned of Aylan's death when a photo of the drowned boy was shared widely on social media, many using the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik or "Flotsam of Humanity" in Turkish.

It shows the toddler on his stomach, face down on a beach in Turkey. He looks like he's sleeping the way so many children his age do, with their bottoms raised and heads gently to the side.

The journalist who shot the photo expressed the outrage, despair and helplessness that it would go on to inspire in many people who saw it.

"There was nothing to do except taking his photograph," said Nilufer Demir, who works for Turkey's Dogan News Agency. "There was nothing to do. And that is exactly what I did. I thought this is the only way I can express the scream of his silent body."

Many are demanding to know what went wrong. Why did this child, his brother and mother have to die? Wasn't there some way to give them that safer life?

Paul Dewar, a Canadian member of Parliament from Ottawa, called it a "very dark day for our country." Canada should be taking on thousands more refugees than it has, he told CNN partner CTV, and he demanded that officials responsible for handling the Kurdi family refugee application explain why they were apparently not helped.

A trip tried several times

Abdullah Kurdi says he boarded a small fiberglass boat in Turkey with 12 people on board. The vessel was manned by two smugglers, a Turk and a Syrian, he said. It was very crowded.

"I told him, 'Should we empty the boat? Should I get off with my wife and child?'"

One of the smugglers replied, "'No, no, it is good,'" Abdullah recounted.

Large waves began crashing against the boat soon after the refugees set out.

Kurdi again raised his concern but the smuggler insisted, "It is guaranteed. Guaranteed."

Shortly afterward, the smuggler jumped overboard and swam toward shore as the waves pounded harder and higher.

Kurdi tried to take control of the boat but it capsized in the rough waters.

"I tried to reach for my wife and children," he said. "I was in the water for 20 minutes. One person after another was dying."

Turkish rescue teams were able to save some people aboard the boats, Turkey's governor's office said. Two men and a child who were traveling in the group are missing.

Originally from Syria's capital, Damascus, Abdullah said he was trying to get to Sweden by way of Greece after his request for asylum was rejected by the Canadian government.

"I don't want anything from anyone anymore," he said. "I will sit by my wife and children and read them Quran until I die, God willing."

'No humanity'

Some said they hoped the images of the boy lying on the beach and his limp body being scooped up by a rescue worker could be a turning point in the debate over how to handle the surge of people heading toward Europe.

Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, described the pictures as "haunting."

"Biggest indictment of collective failure," he wrote.

"Shame on the world!" Burhan Akman tweeted from Turkey, adding in another post, "I see human but no humanity."

Thousands of migrants have died

The family's story isn't that different from those of migrants who have taken huge gambles, traveling by boat or train, shoving into buses or walking for days, sometimes months, trying to reach safe haven.

Many have died. In one case, 71 bodies -- mostly people who had fled Syria -- were found in August in an abandoned truck in Austria. Their alleged smugglers were arrested in Hungary and Italy.

"We are talking about human trafficking, homicide, even murder," said Johann Fuchs, state prosecutor of Eisenstadt, Austria.

More than 2,600 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year alone -- making the area the most deadly migrant crossing point in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration, which warned last month that the number of deaths was soaring.

Nearly three-quarters of the world's migrant deaths this year have occurred in the Mediterranean, according to the organization. And the number of deaths in the region so far this year -- 2,643 -- is nearly 20% higher than last year's 2,223.

Some have drowned. Others have been crushed in stampedes. And some have been asphyxiated by boat engine fumes.

"In the last few weeks we have seen many deaths," Federico Soda, the International Organization for Migration's director for the Mediterranean region, said last week. "We think that this may be explained by the fact that the smugglers are becoming increasingly violent and cruel."

Crisis spurs varied responses

More than 350,000 people have arrived in Europe so far this year, seeking sanctuary from war or persecution or poverty or just seeking a better life.

There's been a wildly different response from governments and citizens, some wanting to take people in, others shutting them out.

"I react with terrible frustration," Antonio Guterres, U.N. high commissioner for refugees, told CNN on Wednesday when asked about his response to the image of the toddler found dead on the Turkish beach.

"These people are forced to go on boats, they pay 4,000 or 5,000 euros and they die in these desperate circumstances. This doesn't make sense," he said. "We need to have a coherent response to this situation, and in my opinion, only Europe as a whole, based on solidarity, can give that response."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was to meet Thursday with other members of the European Union to try to figure out how to cope with the emergency. His nation -- a transit point for migrants trying to make their way north -- has responded by erecting a fence along its border with Serbia.

In Germany, the interior minister will address parliament after a planned asylum center was burned down.

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged "united" action Wednesday and said the issue will be part of the next EU foreign ministers' meeting on Friday and Saturday.

Czech authorities said Wednesday they've started to remove migrants traveling without documentation from trains. In some instances, Czech police have been marking and numbering the migrants with washable ink.

"We cannot let people without any documents and identification travel through the Czech territory. We have to question them. It's our legal obligation," said Katerina Rendlova, a Czech immigration official. "I know other states are not doing it, letting them pass freely to the next country, but we have laws that don't allow us to do it."

Caught in the middle are the desperate men and women, many with children in tow, who are fleeing in overcrowded, sometimes deadly voyages by land and by sea.

CNN's Rachel Clarke, Hala Gorani, Ed Payne, Gul Tuysuz, Laura Perez Maestro, Ivana Kottasova and Raja Razek in Beirut contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
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