Kurdish woman identified as first victim of Channel tragedy

Pregnant woman and children among 27 drowned at sea trying to reach Britain

A 24-year-old woman from Iraqi Kurdistan has been identified as one of the 27 people who died after a boat carrying migrants sank in the English Channel on Wednesday.

Baran Nuri Muhamadamin was travelling to be with her fiance in Britain when a small boat carrying the group of migrants encountered trouble. It is believed the dinghy may have been struck or caught in the wake of a larger vessel.

Three children and seven women were among those who drowned as they attempted the perilous crossing.

The migrants, the majority of whom are believed to be Kurdish and Afghan, died about 10 kilometres off the coast of Calais.

Baran's fiance said he had been tracking her during the crossing until her GPS signal disappeared.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said his wife had been travelling with Afghan and Kurdish refugees.

“She is not in the UK, which means that she is gone. It is very sad for me, and for everyone,” he told The Telegraph.

“I had continuous contact with [her] and I was tracking her live GPS. After four hours and 18 minutes from the moment she went into that boat, I think they were in the middle of the sea, then I lost her.”

Her devastated father, Nuri Mohammed Mohammed Amin, urged France to put a stop smuggling gangs, who he described as “butchers".

“This is a tragedy not only for me but for the whole of Kurdistan and the world,” he told The Telegraph.

“I ask the French government to tighten their borders and stop those butchers. They are not smugglers, they are mafias. This is my only request.”

Friends of Mohammad Aziz, 31, fear he is among the dead after he called them in a panic, saying the boat might sink.

Iraqi Kurd Peshraw Aziz told The Daily Mail his friend had called him saying: “It's not good, the engine isn't powerful enough — I don't know if we're going to make it.” They have not heard anything since.

In another case, the family of Deniz Ahmed Mohammed, 27, a Kurdish migrant, received a voice mail from a man travelling with him asking them to “pray” for them, but have heard nothing since.

Kurdish migration activist Ranj Peshdari said he believes the dead are from Kurdistan, with most having made the journey to Europe from the Peshdar region in Sulaimani province.

“I’ve been told by people in Dunkirk that none of these individuals had life vests,” he told Rudaw English.

“Despite this, the smuggler, a Dutch Kurd, sent them on their way and promised them that their journey would be short.”

France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said police were unsure about the nationalities of the dead because none of them had identity documents, but that they included 17 men, seven women, a teenager and three children.

Karl Maquinghen, the fisherman who alerted rescuers about the sinking in the English Channel, remains haunted by the images of bodies floating on the sea.

“Seeing so many dead like that next to us, it was really like a horror movie,” he said on Friday as he disembarked from the trawler where he works as second in command at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France.

His voice hoarse with emotion, the bearded man in blue overalls with 21 years' experience at sea spoke of his shock and how he now wants only one thing — “to hug his children".

Mr Maquinghen was the first to spot a body floating in the water from the bridge of the Saint-Jacques II before realising there were “about 15 … dead people, children".

Two survivors, named on social media as Mohammed Khalid from Kurdistan and Omer from Somalia, told investigators their dinghy was hit by a container ship.

It is believed the migrants had been living rough in Calais before the incident.

A group of Afghan teenagers, living in one of the migrant camps, fear their friends are among the dead after receiving no news since they attempted the crossing on Wednesday.

Riaz Mohammed, 12, his relative, Share Mohammed, 17, and two other teenagers, Palowan, 16, and Shinai, 15, have not been heard from since.

The tragedy was the largest single loss of life in the Channel since the International Organisation for Migration began collecting figures in 2014.

Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Masrour Barzani has called for action to stop the smugglers.

“I'm deeply saddened by the tragic loss of 27 innocent lives in the English Channel,” he said on Twitter.

“Some of the victims appear to be Kurds. We are working to establish their identities. Our thoughts are with their families.

“This is a potent reminder of the dangers of illegal migration and the smugglers who send people to their deaths. We must act together to stop them.”

Paris has called a meeting of European officials to tackle the issue of migrants making their way to the UK.

Mr Darmanin said that more than one of the women victims was pregnant and that the boat the migrants were travelling in had been bought in Germany.

Updated: November 27th 2021, 1:07 AM
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