Four drowned migrants in English Channel were part of same Iranian family

Zoe Tidman and Conrad Duncan
·3-min read
 (Hengaw Human Rights Organisation)
(Hengaw Human Rights Organisation)

Four migrants who died when their boat capsized in the English Channel have been identified as members of a Kurdish-Iranian family whose 15-month-old boy is still missing.

The BBC identified the family members as Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35 years old, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six.

It said the family, from Sardasht in western Iran, died after trying to make the journey from France to the UK on Tuesday and Artin, who is 15 months old, was still missing.

It came as a refugee charity warned the Channel crossing must not become a “graveyard” for children in the wake of recent deaths.

Charity bosses said the deaths should be a “wake-up” call for those in power, as they called for greater protections for migrants.

"We have to provide a safe and legal process by which refugees can have their UK asylum claims heard,” Clare Moseley, who founded refugee charity Care4Calais, said.

“That's the way to put an end to terrifying, dangerous sea crossings and stop tragedy striking again."

Meanwhile, Labour peer Alf Dubs has urged MPs to look to their consciences before supporting Priti Patel’s attempt to quash his bid to enshrine help for child refugees in law.

Lord Dubs’ amendment to the home secretary’s Immigration Bill, allowing unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with close relatives in the UK, is at the centre of a battle of wills between the two houses of parliament, after peer reinstated it last week following its defeat in the Commons.

Save the Children said in a statement the “tragic news must be a wake-up call” for both the UK and France, who they urged to “come up with a joint plan that ensures the safety of vulnerable children and families”

The charity added: ”The English Channel must not become a graveyard for children."

Amnesty International UK said Britain and France must provide access to safe asylum procedures so people do not risk crossings.

The government has previously been warned its own policies were pushing migrants to risk their lives.

In a statement, Priti Patel reaffirmed her commitment to targeting people smugglers.

“We are in touch with our French counterparts who are leading on the response and have offered whatever support they need as they investigate this incident,” the home secretary said.

“This tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel and I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people.”

French rescuers said there was no hope at finding any more survivors on Wednesday, after the search was called off the night before due to darkness and bad weather.

More than a dozen were saved after the boat capsized off the coast of Dunkirk, with at least four deaths being confirmed.

French citizenship minister Marlene Schiappa said she learned of the tragic incident with "great sadness".

She added: “Despite the resources of the state, which were all mobilised in the SOS operation, the losses are heavy.”

Following news of the deaths, Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, said: "We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident and will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys."

An investigation into the causes of the sinking has been launched by the Dunkirk public prosecutor.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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