Channel boat survivors recall migrants pleading for help from UK and France

Two men were rescued from disaster that killed 27 people

An inflatable dinghy similar to the one which deflated in the English Channel, resulting in the death of 27 people, is carried to the French coast. Reuters
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Survivors of the English Channel boat disaster have described how passengers called desperately for help in the journey’s last moments.

The two men who made it out alive were revealed to be Mohammed Isa Omar, from Somalia, and Mohammed Shekha Ahmad, an Iraqi Kurd.

Speaking to Iraqi broadcaster Rudaw, they said some of the 27 people who died had tried to make distress calls as their flimsy boat filled with water.

Mr Ahmad, 21, claimed someone had picked up the call in France, but had told the migrants to contact Britain instead.

When they did, they were asked for their location, but there was no time and “the phones fell into the water, and people started dying,” said Mr Omar.

“No one came,” he said. “The boat was sinking, the people were dead and I was swimming.”

Mr Ahmad said some of the passengers had tried to bail water out of the boat or pump air into the flimsy vessel, while others tried to get help.

“Two people were calling — one was calling France and the other was calling Britain,” he said.

He said some people had clung on to the boat until sunrise, but were dead by the time a fisherman discovered them on Wednesday.

“Everyone could take it until sunrise, then when the light shone, no one could take it any more and they gave up on life,” he said.

The survivors believed they had reached British waters before their boat went under, although it was later discovered nearer the French coast.

They were both taken to hospital in France, where there were no other survivors. Mr Omar was left in a wheelchair with his legs bandaged.

It was the worst such disaster on record and has led to a bitter political fallout on both sides of the Channel.

France was expected to submit proposals for tackling the issue on Tuesday, after earlier rebuffing Britain’s proposals.

Updated: November 30, 2021, 5:39 PM