migrant child dead beach turkey Bodrum
A Turkish police officer carries the body of a child who drowned off the coast of Bodrum Nilufer Demir/Reuters

The family of a Kurdish boy whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach yesterday (2 September 2015) had their application for asylum rejected by Canada.

Galip Kurdi, aged five, and his three-year-old brother Aylan died along with their mother, Rehan, and 10 other refugees died when their boat capsized as they were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. The family was fleeing Kobane in Syria, which Islamic State (Isis) has attacked repeatedly.

Abdullah, the children's father, survived. His sister, Teema Kurdi, told the Ottawa Citizen that the family had a G5 privately sponsored application for asylum in Canada rejected by Citizenship and Immigration in June of this year. Teema, who is a hairdresser in Vancouver and emigrated to Canada 20 years ago, said: "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. I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there."

The Citizenship and Immigration Department said that the family could not be granted asylum because the UN would not register them as refugees, and the Turkish government would not grant them exit visas because they did not have passports. Fin Donnelly, the MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam, said he brought the family's case to the attention of Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, but the application was still rejected. "This is horrific and heartbreaking news," Donnelly said. "The frustration of waiting and the inaction has been terrible."

In an interview with CBC yesterday, Alexander said that Canada had taken in approximately 2,500 Syrian refugees, following criticism that the country had not done enough to offer assistance to those fleeing conflict in the Middle East. Former Liberal cabinet minister John McCallum labelled the government response to the Syrian refugee crisis a "total disgrace."

In January, the Canadian government announced it would allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in Canada in the next four years, but it came under pressure after refusing to reveal how many refugees had been admitted until Wednesday's interview.

The boat capsized about 30 minutes after it set off from Bodrum in Turkey. Pictures of a Turkish gendarme carrying one of the lifeless bodies of the boys from Bodrum's Ali Hoca Point Beach have shocked the world. The boats were part of a flotilla of dinghys that boarded at an inlet and set off for Kos off the coast of Akyarlar, Turkey's nearest point to Greece. A second dinghy in the group also capsized, with eight drowned, four missing and four who survived.

According to UN estimates, 3.2 million people have been forced to flee Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, while 6.5 million are internally displaced and 10.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. Canada's Citizenship and Immigration has been asked to comment.

Amendment 04/09/2015

Canada's Citizenship and Immigration subsequently denied it received an asylum application from the family of Aylan Kurdi. Teema Kurdi told reporters that she hoped to sponsor Aylan's family, after an asylum application from his uncle, Mohammad, was denied.