British Columbia

Alan Kurdi's father not a people smuggler, family says

The B.C.-based family of Abdullah Kurdi says allegations that he is actually a people smuggler are 'ridiculous.'

Australian news organization releases interview alleging Abdullah Kurdi was captain of the boat

Abdullah Kurdi holds the body of his three-year-old son Alan during a funeral service in Syria, on Sept. 4. (Dicle News Agency/EPA)

The Canadian family of Abdullah Kurdi, the father who lost his wife and two sons when a boat full of Syrian refugees capsized en route to Greece, says new allegations — from a passenger on the boat — that Kurdi was one of the smugglers running the boat, are "ridiculous."

"It's just simply untrue. It's made up." Kurdi's brother-in-law Rocco Logozzo told CBC News in Vancouver on Friday.

The death of Kurdi's three-year-old son, Alan, who drowned along with his brother, Galib, 5, and mother, Reham, has drawn worldwide attention to the Syrian refugee crisis and placed the Canadian government under fire after it emerged the family had hoped to come to Canada with the help of their aunt, Tima Kurdi, who lives in Coquitlam, B.C.

Though she only submitted an asylum application for Abdullah Kurdi's brother Mohammed, Tima Kurdi has said Abdullah's plight was brought to the attention of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander when her local NDP MP handed a letter to him in the House of Commons earlier this year.

Logozzo, Tima Kurdi's husband, said that his wife had spoken to her brother since the accusations aired on an Australian news organization.

"He completely denies all these allegations," Logozzo said. "He's standing by his account and I don't see any reason to believe these stories. He's a victim here, just like that poor woman."

Zainab Abbas, who lost two children of her own in the tragedy — her nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter — told Ten News that Kurdi was part of the group that took US $10,000 from her to transport her family of five.

Now in Iraq and hoping to be granted asylum in Australia, Abbas gives her account of the dreadful capsizing of the boat, and the moment she felt her daughter's hand slipping from her grasp.

She says that boat was too full and there were not enough life jackets to go around. She also states clearly that Abdullah Kurdi was in charge.

"He was a smuggler, yes, he was the one driving the boat,'' she said in an interview translated by her Australian-based cousin Lara Tahseen.

Abbas said that her husband had tried to reason with Kurdi who, she says, was driving the overloaded boat too fast.

"He was going crazy," she said of Kurdi.

After the boat capsized and Abbas realized two of her children were drowned, she says Kurdi told her he had lost his two sons and his wife, and pleaded with her not to tell anyone he was in charge.

But Kurdi insists he only tried to take control of the boat after the captain bailed, leaving the refugees to fend for themselves.

'Pretty ridiculous'

"He doesn't know how to operate a boat. As far as I know that was his first time on a boat. It's pretty ridiculous," said Logozzo.

Alan and Galib Kurdi are seen in an undated family handout photo courtesy of their aunt, Tima Kurdi. (The Canadian Press)

He said the family is doing its best to deal with the international attention, including the negative press, but they have no idea why Abbas is making these allegations.

"We don't understand," he said. "We certainly feel for the woman … she lost her kids too."

Four Syrians were arrested over the incident last week, accused of "conscious negligence" in connection with the drowning deaths of 12 people travelling on the boat.

With files from Kirk Williams