US & Canada

Alan Kurdi's relatives arrive in Canada as refugees

Tima Kurdi lifts up her nephew at Vancouver airport. 28 Dec 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Tima Kurdi, left. welcomed her brother and his family at Vancouver airport

Relatives of Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, whose drowning off the coast of Turkey triggered an international outcry, have arrived in Canada as refugees.

The boy's uncle Mohammed Kurdi, his wife and five children landed in Vancouver where they had an emotional reunion with Alan's aunt Tima.

The three-year-old died with his mother and brother trying to reach Greece.

The family is just a few of the tens of thousands of people that the Canadian government has promised to resettle.

They are being sponsored by Tima Kurdi, who lives in British Columbia and has become an advocate for refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.

"I am happy, very happy," Mohammed Kurdi told reporters at Vancouver's main airport.

Speaking through Tima - his sister- he thanked Canadians and the government for making his family's dream come true.

Alan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, now lives in Iraq and said after the deaths of his wife and sons that he would not move to Canada.

Images of Alan Kurdi's body washed up on a beach near Bodrum in September caused an outpouring of sympathy for those fleeing to Europe to escape Syria's civil war.

After Alan's death, Tima Kurdi said Canada had rejected the family's request for refugee status, but later acknowledged it had never been submitted.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mohammed Kurdi, right, thanked Canada for accepting his family
Image copyright Agency
Image caption Alan, left, three, his brother Galip, five, and their mother died trying to get to Greece by boat

She told the BBC that she was unable to look at the photo of the toddler, which became a symbol for the refugee crisis. However, she said that she understands its power.

Hundreds of asylum seekers have died this year trying to reach Europe by sea. Greece and Turkey have become a major transit points.

The admittance of refugees from war-torn nations including Syria has become highly contentious for governments around the world, with leaders attempting to balance security and humanitarian concerns.

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Media captionCanadian PM Justin Trudeau: 'This is a wonderful night'

In Canada, the newly elected Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on the promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February.

The government, which came to power in early November, said that 10,000 of the refugees would arrive by the end of the year.

Last week, the minister of immigration and citizenship said the country's resettlement programme would be expanded in 2016 to take 50,000.

The first military plane carrying Syrian refugees to be resettled in Canada arrived in the country in early December, with Mr Trudeau personally greeting many of them upon arrival.

Since early November, hundreds of Syrians have already arrived in Canada via commercial aircraft.

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