German migrant rescue ship renamed after tragic toddler
A German migrant rescue ship which operates in the Mediterranean was renamed on Feb. 10 after Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach at the height of the migrant crisis, sparking global outrage.
Alan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, and aunt, Tima Kurdi, attended the renaming ceremony held in Palma on Spain’s Balearic Island of Mallorca. The event was organized by German charity Sea-Eye which operates the boat formerly known as the Professor Albrecht Penck.
“We are happy that a German rescue ship will carry the name of our boy. My boy on the beach must never be forgotten. Our grief for the loss of my wife and sons is shared by many, by thousands of families who have so tragically lost sons and daughters this way,” Abdullah Kurdi said in a statement released by Sea-Eye.
Kurdi paid smugglers to take him and his family from Turkey to Greece. Their September 2015 journey across the Mediterranean ended in tragedy after the flimsy inflatable boat sank in rough seas.
Eleven refugees died, including Kurdi’s wife Rehanna and their two young boys, Ghalib and Alan. Turkey sentenced two Syrian men to more than four years in prison in connection with the accident.
The images of Alan, wearing a red T-shirt, blue shorts and black shoes, and lying face-down in the surf, sparked outcry around the world and led to demands that more should be done to protect those making the perilous journey from North Africa to Europe.
Abdullah Kurdi, who now lives in Erbil, Iraq, also spoke at the naming ceremony.
“This day is very difficult for me as I have many memories again,” he said. “But I want to support Sea-Eye. I am grateful that the club has chosen the name of my boy.
“They are people with a good heart in this organization. So the name of my boy stands for something good and his little soul can find peace.”
Carlotta Weibl, a spokesperson for Sea-Eye, said in a statement: “The name ‘Alan Kurdi’ shall be a reminder of what our work is really about. It is not about ships, captains, NGOs and clashes with misguided politicians.
“It is about actual persons, like Alan, Ghalib and Rehena, who drown in the Mediterranean daily. And it is about the endless pain and grief their loved ones have to feel.”
But the rise of anti-immigrant movements across Europe in response to the spike in arrivals in 2015 has seen governments seek to stem the numbers amid continuing rows over who should take those who do make it.
Sea-Eye says it has saved more than 14,000 people from drowning in the Mediterranean in more than 60 missions since it started operating in 2016.
The rescue ship was previously named Professor Albrecht Penck.