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‘My children slipped through my hands and one by one, they died’: Drowned boy’s father

The father of a three-year-old Syrian boy, whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach in an image that shocked the world, has said his children “slipped through my hands” as their boat was taking in water on its way to Greece.

Abdullah, whose surname is given by Turkish media as Kurdi but sources in Syria say is actually called Shenu, lost his three-year-old son Aylan, four-year-old son Ghaleb and wife Rihana in the tragedy.

“I was holding my wife’s hand. But my children slipped through my hands. It was dark and everyone was screaming,” Abdullah Kurdi told Turkey’s Dogan news agency yesterday of the moment the dinghy began to sink.

“We tried to cling to the small boat, but it was deflating.”

Abdullah cut an inconsolable figure sitting outside the morgue in Bodrum yesterday, staring blankly into his mobile phone as he waited for the coffins of his family to be loaded onto a municipal van, an AFP photographer reported.

Twelve Syrian migrants drowned on Wednesday when two boats sank in Turkish waters as they were heading towards the Greek island of Kos, in the latest tragedy to hit migrants in the Aegean.

But attention has focused on three-year-old Aylan, whose tiny body was photographed washed up on a beach in the resort of Bodrum in an image that quickly became a viral symbol of the tragedy of refugees.

In a second image, a Turkish security officer cradles the boy in his arms.

Abdullah had been trying to cross along with his family and up to three other Syrians from the flashpoint town of Kobane that last year was the subject of a months-long battle between Kurdish militias and jihadists, Turkish media said.

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported that the family had ultimately been trying to emigrate to Canada.

It said his sister Teema – a Vancouver hairdresser who emigrated to Canada 20 years ago – had sponsored a refugee application that Canada’s immigration authorities rejected in June.

“I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat,” the newspaper quoted Teema Kurdi as saying.

However Canada’s immigration department said there was no record of an application from Abdullah Kurdi and his family but only an incomplete form from his brother Mohammed Kurdi for his immediate family.

The administration has found “no trace of any request received from Abdullah Kurdi and his family,” the Canadian Immigration and citizenship department said in a statement.