British Columbia

Migrant rescue ship named after drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi

A German rescue ship operating in the Mediterranean Sea was renamed after a young Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of a beach in Turkey in 2015.

Ceremony attended by Alan Kurdi’s father and aunt, a Coquitlam, B.C. resident

Abdullah Kurdi and his sister, Tima, stand in front of a Sea-Eye rescue ship named after his son and her nephew, Alan Kurdi, during its inauguration in Palma de Mallorca on Feb. 10, 2019. (Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

A German rescue ship was renamed on Sunday after the young Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shores of a beach in Turkey in 2015.

Photos depicting the lifeless body of two-year-old Alan Kurdi, the 'boy on the beach,' sparked global outrage and fixed the world's attention on the European migration crisis.

Abdullah Kurdi, Alan's father, and Tima Kurdi, the boy's aunt, attended the naming ceremony on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

"It's so painful bringing the memory back to 2015 that day," Tima Kurdi, who lives in Coquitlam, B.C., told CBC Radio's On The Coast  host Gloria Macarenko.

"But it's very nice to see that ship, Alan's ship, is rescuing the people."

Ship to prevent drowning

The event was organized by Sea-Eye, a German NGO that focuses on rescuing migrants who run into danger on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.  

Alan Kurdi drowned along with his five-year-old brother, Galib, and their mother, Reham, as their family attempted to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece in an inflatable boat.

Tima Kurdi, who was already living in Canada at the time, previously said that she provided the funds to her brother that paid for the family's ill-fated boat trip.

Kurdi said the ceremony was especially hard on her brother.

"Abdullah, he almost lost it," said Kurdi. " He said, 'I'm just remembering exactly the tragedy of my family.' And he starts crying and remembering, one by one, they slipped from [his] hand."

Alan Kurdi's legacy

Tima Kurdi said she hopes the ship's new name will preserve Alan Kurdi's legacy as a tragic reminder of what can happen, if the international community does not respond fast enough to a humanitarian crisis.

"He died because the world was silent," Kurdi said.

"So, when I saw that name, it was a really nice feeling, a happy feeling, that the name of Alan Kurdi should never be forgotten."

The Alan Kurdi will depart from Mallorca on Wednesday for its first mission with its new name, Kurdi said.

Listen to the full interview here:

A German rescue ship operating in the Mediterranean Sea was renamed after Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy whose dead body washed up on the shore of a beach in Turkey in 2015. Gloria Macarenko interviews Tima Kurdi, the boy's aunt, who attended the ceremony in Mallorca, Spain. 5:57

With files from CBC Radio's As It Happens

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