Two adults and two young children who drowned when their migrant boat capsized in the English Channel were members of a Kurdish-Iranian family who were warned not to undertake the perilous voyage, Sky News has been told.
The family – who have been named by a human rights group as Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six – died trying to make the journey from France to the UK.
A fellow migrant at their makeshift camp near Dunkirk told Sky News he urged the parents, whose 15-month-old son Artin is still said to be missing, not to make journey because of bad weather conditions.
Choman Manish, 37, said: “It’s so sad because I know this family. I advised them please don’t go by boat it’s not good. It’s a really bad situation if you stay in the water, it will be bad for you.”
Image: Search and rescue teams fear the death toll could rise
French authorities have said a five-year-old and an eight-year-old were among four people who died when the boat sank off the coast of Dunkirk in northern France on Tuesday.
Another 15 migrants were rescued, with eight suffering hypothermia and two in cardiac arrest.
Mr Manish said he knew the family well and has himself made 10 attempts to get across the Channel.
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Sky News showed him a photo of the family, shared online by the Hengaw Organisation for Human Rights, and he identified them as the group he knew from the makeshift camp.
He confirmed the group’s information that the parents were both 35-years-old, and the children, a boy and a girl, were aged six and nine. He also claimed they were travelling with a 15-month-old baby who is still missing.
The names, different ages and information about the missing baby have not been confirmed by authorities, but the French have said further searches are being carried out in the area and the death toll could rise.
The tragedy is believed to be the single biggest loss of life during the current migrant crisis, bringing the total number of deaths since 2018 to 10.
Image: More than a dozen migrants were rescued after the sinking
Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, said the “horrifying” incident should be a “wake-up call” for leaders in the UK and France.
“We are grieving for the victims, we stand in sympathy and solidarity with their families and friends,” she said.
“It is cruel and horrifying that, this time, young children are among the victims.”
Mr Manish, who is also Kurdish-Iranian, said he has been travelling for four years. He has now given up hope of reaching the UK and plans to claim asylum in Belgium.
The deaths will put pressure on the Home Office, which has repeatedly pledged to make the route “unviable”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the incident “terrible” and said the UK had offered “every support” to French authorities, while Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “truly saddened”.
Ms Patel added: “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.
“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.”
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Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, said there had been fears “we would see a tragedy like this for a long time”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is an awful tragedy. For anyone to lose their lives in the cold sea like this is terrible, and when young children are involved it just makes it even more distressing.
An investigation into the cause of the sinking has been launched by the Dunkirk public prosecutor.
Source : Sky News