'A new beginning of life': Alan Kurdi's family arrives in Vancouver

Relatives of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose lifeless body was photographed washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach earlier this year, drawing attention to a growing refugee crisis, arrived in Canada on Monday.

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Mohammed Kurdi, his wife and their five children touched down in Vancouver shortly before noon, where they are being greeted by his sister, Tima Kurdi, a Canadian who is sponsoring the family.

Also on hand at the airport are children holding signs that said “Welcome to Canada.”

Tima Kurdi told CTV News Channel Monday morning 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, Abdullah Kurdi, 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.

She said she's overwhelmed at the thought that she will at last be reunited with her brother.

"I'm happy, I'm sad… I'm really speechless. I don't know what else to say," she said. "I'm happy for them; to give them a safe place and a home -- a new beginning of life."

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.

Her other brother and Alan Kurdi's father, Abdullah Kurdi, declined to come to Canada and now lives in Kurdistan.

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 near-weekly basis since the start of December. The Liberals have held to their pledge to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February, after admitting that they’d likely fall short of a target to settle 10,000 by the end of the year.

Tima Kurdi said she understands the anxiety and worry many of the new arrivals will have, as they face the immense task of starting from scratch in a new country.

However, she said, they should be comforted to know that they've come to a good place.

"Canadian people have big hearts," she said. "They should start a new life, and try to build their life and work hard to start it."

With files from The Canadian Press


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