Identifying victims of Channel migrant tragedy could take WEEKS: Charities say process is ‘very complicated’ with DNA tests being carried out on bodies of the 27 people who died in crossing
- Many families are still anxiously awaiting news on whether their loved ones were among the 27 people who died after their dinghy sank in Channel
- DNA tests are being carried out on the bodies – but results can take two weeks
- Some details have emerged about victims, with 21-year-old student among dead
Identifying the victims of the Channel migrant tragedy is a ‘very complicated’ process that could take weeks, according to humanitarian organisations involved in the efforts.
DNA tests are being carried out on the bodies of the 27 people who died after their dinghy sank while crossing to Britain last Wednesday, on what was the deadliest day of the migration crisis.
Some details have emerged about the victims, with 21-year-old Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, who was trying to reach her fiance in Britain, identified as being among the dead.
But many families are still anxiously awaiting news on whether their loved ones were among them.
An Iraqi Kurdish mother Kazhal Rzgar, 46, and daughters Hadya, 22, and Hasta, seven, and sons Twana, 19, and Mubin, 16, are feared to be among the 27 victims.
Some details have emerged about the victims, with 21-year-old Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin (pictured), who was trying to reach her fiance in Britain, identified as being among the dead
An Iraqi Kurdish mother Kazhal Rzgar, 46, and daughters Hadya, 22, and Hasta, seven, and sons Twana, 19, and Mubin, 16, are feared to be among the 27 victims
A special group made up of representatives from Calais-based charities is working to help provide that confirmation by carrying out DNA tests – but it takes two weeks to get the results.
Maya Konforti, from the refugee organisation L’Auberge Des Migrants, said: ‘It’s going to take days to actually identify all the bodies.
‘If some family members say ‘It must be my brother or my cousin’, they do DNA tests – it takes two weeks to get the results.
‘It’s a really big deal and, when there’s so many bodies, the group must be completely submerged.
‘It’s very complicated and it’s extremely stressful, it’s a very big job.’
Konforti said organisations are using photographs sent by anguished relatives to help identify the victims.
‘They do all this work and you can imagine how incredibly emotional that is,’ she added.
The flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais on last Wednesday, killing 27 people including seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children
Ms Konforti, who is not herself part of the group, said its members are reluctant to speak to reporters and risk families finding out about their relatives’ deaths through the media rather than from officials.
She added: ‘It’s also because the families who stay home, they don’t realise that people are in such danger once they arrive in Europe.
‘In their mind, once they’re in Europe, even though they might not have arrived in the UK yet, they’re safe and it’s not the case.’
Pierre Roques, manager at L’Auberge Des Migrants, who is part of the group, declined to speak about the identification process, saying it is currently in the hands of police and the Calais hospital morgue where the bodies are being held.
He said: ‘I think it’s going to take a while because there are a lot of victims.’
Another organisation involved is Tahara, which is helping provide burials for those who lost their lives, according to its head, Samad Akrach.
It is up to the victims’ families whether the bodies are repatriated or not, Ms Konforti said.
‘It’s the families who will decide what they want and can they contribute a little money, because, you know, burying the bodies in Calais costs about 2,000 euros, sending them back to Iraq is around 5,000, so that’s a big price difference.
‘The difficulty is going to be to find the money to do that.’
‘We’ve asked the government to help us but we haven’t had any answer, and even if everybody is buried in Calais, that’s 60,000 euros – that’s a lot of money.
At least 27 migrants drowned in the Channel attempting to cross from France to the UK, just hours after a different group of 40 migrants were pictured launching dinghies from the French coast watched by police
‘I really don’t know how we’re going to do that and we haven’t gotten to that place yet.’
One of those who died has been identified by a relative as 21-year-old Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, known to her family as Baran.
She was said to have been trying to join her fiance, who already lives in Britain.
Best friends Shakar Ali, 25, and Harem Pirot, 23, who grew up as neighbours in Iraq and set off together to find a new life in the UK are believed to have been on board the dinghy that sank off Calais.
Their friend Sanger Ahmed, 33, said they phoned him just before setting off from France on Wednesday morning and they sounded terrified, telling him too many people were on the boat.
Shakar Ali, 25, (left) and Harem Pirot, 23, (right) who grew up as neighbours in Iraq and set off together to find a new life in the UK are believed to have been on board the dinghy
A family from the Iraqi Kurdish town of Darbandikhan – Khazal Hussein, 45, and her children, Haida, 22, son Mubin, 16, and younger daughter Hasti, seven – are also thought to be among the dead.
The mother and her four children told MailOnline just a week earlier of their dream of starting a new life in the UK.
MailOnline discovered the family on November 17 as they were scavenging blankets, warm clothing and cooking implements from their former camp after it was shut down by hundreds of French police.
Hasti was also pictured by MailOnline the previous day on November 16 as she excitedly tried on a bright orange lifejacket in the hope that she could get a place to a boat.
Her family were among hundreds of migrants who turned town the chance of claiming asylum in France because they thought it was worth risking their lives to get to the UK.
Mubin (pictured at the back) was on board with his mother Kazhal Ahmed, 45, and two sisters Haida, 22, and Hasti, seven. They are all feared dead
MailOnline discovered the family on November 17 as they were scavenging blankets, warm clothing and cooking implements from their former camp after it was shut down by hundreds of French police
Further details have emerged about the Channel crossing tragedy from a survivor of the disaster.
Mohammed Shekha, 21, detailed a shocking series of desperate calls to French and British authorities and claimed both denied responsibility for the rescue.
Mr Shekha, one of only two survivors, said the boat’s occupants held each other’s hands in the water before succumbing to the icy sea.
In an interview with Rudaw, the Kurdish state broadcaster, he said 33 people went to the shore near Dunkirk at 8pm last Tuesday.
He said: ‘We started moving after half an hour. Everything was perfect until early in the morning. It was still dark and water was coming into the small boat from the back. So a group of us tried to empty the water from the boat. That’s when we saw a big ship.’
Mohammed Sheka, 21 (R), is one of only two migrants to have survived when a rubber dinghy carrying 29 migrants deflated in the English Channel on Wednesday. Pictured left is Mohammed’s sister, Fatima, 18, for whom Mohammed is making the journey to Britain to earn money for medical operations
The young shepherd, whose family live in northern Iraq, said some migrants wanted to swim to the ship.
‘Some of us said, “let’s go to the ship” and the others rejected it and said “no, we have to reach Britain”. Then the ship disappeared and the right side of the boat was losing air.’
At that point, 16-year-old Mubin Hussein, who was on board with his mother and two sisters, made desperate phone calls for help.
Mr Shekha said: ‘We then called French police and they told us to send a live location. So we sent them the location, but they said “you are in British territory, we cannot do anything”. We then called the British, but they said “no, call the French”.
Mubin was on board with his mother Kazhal Ahmed, 45, and two sisters Haida, 22, and Hasti, seven. They are all feared dead.
In an interview with Rudaw (above), the Kurdish state broadcaster, he said 33 people went to the shore near Dunkirk at 8pm on Tuesday
A French sea rescue boat was seen carrying the bodies of migrants recovered off the coast of Calais this evening as police said they had arrested four alleged people smugglers thought to be connected to the tragedy which saw at least 27 migrants, including five women and a girl, down today as they tried to cross the Channel
After the frantic calls to authorities, the boat lost most of its air and stopped moving before the current pushed it back towards France.
Mr Shekha said: ‘That’s when people started falling into the water. So to rescue them we were all holding each other’s hands, all of us, the 33. This continued for a few hours until it became day.
‘The sun was out, but we couldn’t hold on any longer. The people just stopped holding hands and they all went into the water. They died.’
In the heartbreaking 20-minute interview, the Kurdish reporter showed Mr Shekha pictures of other suspected victims, including Mubin and his family.
Asked whether the pictured family were on board, Mr Shekha immediately said, “yes, they were on board” and started to cry.
The children’s father, Rizgar Hussein, is a policeman who remained in the family’s hometown of Darbandikhan, in Iraq. The mother and their children left four months ago in search of a better life.
Mr Hussein, speaking to local media, said: ‘I got a call from my daughter at 10’oclock Iraqi time. She said, “we have been on board for five minutes”. It was the last time we spoke. I haven’t been able to contact them since.
‘If this incident hadn’t happened I wouldn’t mind not hearing from them for a month. But now that this incident happened, it’s very hard for me.’
All of his children were in school, and his youngest Hasti was studying at a primary school. Their father said his children had promised to resume their studies upon arriving in Europe.
He described his family as ‘normal people’, adding: ‘They were not happy here. They wanted a good life. And every parent wants a good life for his children. That’s what I wanted.’
The family arrived in Turkey with just $5,000 dollars, which meant they were forced to sell their house in Iraq for $30,000.
They used the proceeds to pay the smugglers, Mr Hussein said.
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