A FAMILY who tragically drowned after their boat capsized in the Channel “sold everything they had” to raise funds to make the fatal trip, a relative said.
Four members of the Kurdish-Iranian family were confirmed dead yesterday, while the search for their missing 15-month-old baby boy, Artin, was called off today.
Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, aged nine, and Armin, six, were all killed while trying to make the dangerous crossing from France to the UK yesterday, the BBC reports.
Rasoul’s brother Ali, also from Sardasht in western Iran, said that his sibling sold everything they had in a bid to give his family a better future.
He said nobody knows what happened to little Armin.
Ali said: “Some say he is alive, some say he is dead. We are confused.
“Our family here are desperate. My father, mother and sisters are crying their eyes out.”
A friend told the BBC the family left Iran on August 7 for Turkey and then took a ferry to Italy before driving to France around four weeks ago.
They paid £21,600 to smugglers to make the dangerous crossing to the UK, he said.
The Kurdish region in Iran is impoverished and residents face political persecution.
Fifteen other migrants who were on the same boat were rescued and taken to hospital.
The boat attempted to take the journey – which claimed three lives earlier this year – during high winds and choppy waters.
A search operation has did not resume this morning to find baby Artin, the French coastguard said.
An investigation has been launched in Dunkirk by French authorities into the sinking.
Yesterday, a chilling Mayday radio plea, received from a small fishing boat just a few miles off the French coast, begged: “Help us, we’re sinking!”
Their overcrowded ‘day fishing dinghy’ sank at around 9.30am in “very bad weather conditions including high wind and rain,” said local official Hervé Tourmente.
All those involved were Iranian Kurds who were on the last stage of their journey to claim asylum in the UK.
They were all believed to have been staying in the Calais area before heading off to try and get to England in the early hours of yesterday.
Meanwhile, French police were trying to find suspected people smugglers responsible for launching the small boat in dangerous conditions.
Sébastien Piève, the Dunkirk prosecutor, said a criminal enquiry was focusing on suspected manslaughter, causing injuries and “assisting people in an irregular situation.”
Mr Piève said no suspects had yet been caught, but seven survivors were in custody “for questioning” over possible connections with a people smuggling gang.
The French authorities confirmed they were in touch with their British counterparts as part of the enquiry.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel.
“We will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.”
More than 7,400 people have arrived in the UK in small boats this year – almost four times as many as in 2019, with a record 416 arriving on a single day, September 2nd.
Official data further reveals that in the year to June 2020, there were 3,402 applications for asylum from children aged 17 or under.
The tragedy has been described as the worst of its kind to have taken place between France and the UK since migrants began using makeshift boats to get to Britain.
In 2019, four migrants drowned in individual incidents and before today, three migrants had died making the perilous crossing this year.
Just over a week ago, a migrant was found on the beach at Sangatte, next to Calais.
Next to him was a life vest – one typical of the kind that migrants wear as they pack rigid inflatable dinghies bound for the coast of England.
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And in August a Sudanese migrant who could not swim drowned after the toy blow-up boat he was using to try and get to Britain was accidentally punctured by a shovel being used as a makeshift oar.
The horrific accident led to the victim, who carried identity papers and a mobile phone, tipping into the English Channel just off Calais.
The latest drownings follow a war of words between France and Britain over who should be preventing migrants making the perilous sea journey between the two countries.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.