Aylan's aunt: His mum told me 'I don't know how to swim and I'm scared'

Talks on the refugee crisis continue at EU level today, with a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg and a separate gathering of the leaders of four eastern European countries, including Hungary.

It comes ahead of a European Commission proposal to relocate an extra 120,000 people across the European Union to be unveiled next week.

Calls are mounting for a united response to the refugee crisis after pictures were published of the body of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey. His brother and their mother also drowned.

Aylan's aunt, who lives in Canada, where Aylan's family wanted to go, said she spoke to her sister-in-law before the family set off on their journey.

Teema Kurdi said: "She said to me: 'I really don't want to go. I don't know how to swim and I'm scared. How about if we drown in the water?'

"I said to her, laughing,: 'Just put your lifejacket on. You will be fine'."

Canada has denied it received a bid for asylum from the family. Teema Kurdi said the family's request for refugee status had been rejected, but later acknowledged it had never been submitted. Abdullah's brother, Mohammad, did submit an application, though it was rejected for being incomplete, Canadian immigration authorities added.

Aylan's father Abdullah Kurdi. Picture: AP

A statement released by Teema Kurdi to the media on the family's experience said the family had begun a formal process to bring her siblings and their families to Canada. She said that "due to financial constraints and a complex application process requiring numerous international documents", the family was applying for her siblings on at a time.

"The first of the applications was done on behalf of our older brother Mohammad and his family, as his children are of school age. Abdullah's application was to be submitted upon approval of the first," she said.

"I gathered a group of sponsors including family and friends and we filed a sponsorship application in early 2015. It was rejected in June as it was impossible for my family, as it is for many Syrians, to get the necessary documents that would satisfy the Canadian refugee entry requirements.

"Some of the documentation required for this process included: a valid Syrian passport and a Turkish work permit (Mavi Kimlik card), which are simply not available to Syrians in that region."

She said the application was declined and that same week, Mohammad left for Germany as they had opened their borders to the refugees.

"When Abdullah learned about our brother's rejected Canadian application, it became clear he also had to find a way to reach Western Europe," she said.

"There was no hope of collecting the appropriate paperwork for his family to be successful with an entry to Canada.

"It is too late to save Abdullah's family. However, it is clear that the international community needs to do more to help the refugees of this war-torn region."

Two-day blockade

Meanwhile, thousands of people desperate to reach Western Europe rushed into a Budapest railway station after police ended a two-day blockade, setting off a wave of anger as hundreds shoved their way onto a waiting train.

But when it tried to drop them off at a Hungarian camp for asylum seekers, a bitter showdown began.

One man yelled in Arabic as his wife and infant son lay on the tracks: “We won’t move from here!”

Police surrounded the prone family, pulled the husband away and handcuffed him as he cried out.

His wife and nappy-clad boy – apparently uninjured despite their stumbling descent onto the tracks – were freed and allowed to rejoin other migrants.

The scene of desperation was just one of many that unfolded as tempers flared in Hungary’s war of wills with migrants trying to evade asylum checks and reach Western Europe, a showdown with consequences for the entire continent.

Hungary’s anti-immigrant prime minister warned European partners that he intends to make his country’s borders an impassible fortress for new arrivals.

His government struggled to coax thousands of unwanted visitors away from the Budapest transport hub that has been turned into a squalid refugee camp.

People fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa rushed into the Keleti railway terminal when police unexpectedly withdrew on Thursday morning, ending a blockade designed to stop migrants from boarding trains to their desired destinations in Germany and Austria.

In desperate scenes, people pushed each other to reach the train’s six carriages. Children cried in terror as parents or older siblings pulled them through open windows, thinking that getting on board meant they would be first to escape Hungary.

But instead of heading to the Austrian border, the overloaded train stopped at Bicske, a town north-west of Budapest that holds one of the country’s five camps for asylum seekers – facilities the migrants want to avoid as they do not want to pursue asylum claims in economically depressed Hungary.

As the train platform filled with police came into view, those inside chanted their disapproval and their determination to reach Germany, their almost unanimous goal.

The crowd, angrily waving train tickets to Vienna and Munich, refused police orders to board buses to the asylum centre, pushing their way past police and back onto the train.

A day-long stand-off ensued in which police and charity workers took turns handing food and water to the passengers, only to have them tossed out of train windows in protest.

KEYWORDS: Migrant cisis


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