BERLIN (AP) — The aunt of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose drowning five years ago put a human face on the Syrian refugee crisis, appealed to the world Tuesday to help refugees in need and not allow their continued drowning deaths in the Mediterranean Sea.
Tima Kurdi told reporters in the southern German city of Regensburg that “while I couldn’t save my own family, let’s help save others in need.”
The image of the little boy’s lifeless body lying face down on a Turkish beach galvanized world attention to the refugee crisis, illustrating the magnitude of the suffering, the lives destroyed and the treacherous journeys migrants risked fleeing violence or seeking a better life.
While Turkish authorities have given the boy’s first name as Aylan, his aunt says the family prefers that it be transliterated as Alan.
Alan’s brother, Galip, and mother Rihan, were also among the five people who drowned on Sept. 2, 2015, when their boat sank on the ill-fated journey from the Turkish resort city of Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos.
Tima Kurdi, who later founded the Kurdi Foundation to help refugee children in need, is campaigning to show those who perceive migrants as a problem or threat the level of suffering migrants and refugees are exposed to.
“Those people are innocent victims, they flee from force, not by choice,” she said, struggling to fight back the tears.
“Sadly, our family’s tragedy is one of many,” she added. “We cannot close our eyes.”
Five years ago, during the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, more than 1 million people mostly from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, fled to Europe, many of them by crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy smugglers’s boats that often sank.
In March, the U.N. migration agency said since 2014, an estimated 20,000 migrants have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean.