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Mourners pay tribute to drowned Syrian boys

Published 06/09/2015

Tima Kurdi, centre, carrying flowers walks to the waterfront to release balloons after a memorial service in Vancouver (The Canadian Press/AP)
Tima Kurdi, centre, carrying flowers walks to the waterfront to release balloons after a memorial service in Vancouver (The Canadian Press/AP)

Dozens of white balloons drifted over Vancouver's harbour to honour the young Syrian boys whose deaths at sea sparked worldwide outrage about the refugee crisis.

The boys' aunt, Tima Kurdi, stood looking at the sky after she and other mourners let go of the balloons, which had photos attached of three-year-old Aylan and Galip, five.

With tears in her eyes, she tossed a bouquet of yellow flowers into the water.

Ms Kurdi said she hopes to bring the rest of her family to Canada, which she made home more than two decades ago.

Her brother, Abdullah, is not ready to leave his Syrian hometown of Kobani, where his sons and wife Rehanna were buried on Friday, she said.

They drowned after piling into an overloaded boat in Turkey headed for the Greek island of Kos. Her brother was among the few survivors.

"One day, I will bring him here. He cannot be by himself there," Ms Kurdi said.

Family, friends and strangers packed a small theatre on Saturday for a memorial service.

Ms Kurdi tearfully recalled the last phone call Galip made to his grandfather, the night before he boarded the boat.

"He said to him, 'Can you bring your truck here and take me? I don't want to go with them to the water,'" she said.

She said his grandfather reassured Galip not to worry and that he would be OK. In the background, he could hear Aylan laughing. "He never cried, Aylan. He always laughed. He doesn't know how to cry."

Ms Kurdi has said she wanted to bring both her brothers to Canada, but she applied first for her eldest sibling Mohammed, whose application was rejected because it was incomplete.

She said she does not blame the Canadian government.

She said the failed application prompted Abdullah to embark on the journey with his family, and she sent him 5,000 dollars (£3,300) to pay smugglers to take them in a boat.

She said the trip was the "only option" left for the family to have a better life in a European country. They were fleeing horrors in Syria, where militants from the Islamic State group had beheaded one of her sister-in-law's relatives.

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