Iraqi Kurds mourn their dead after Channel migrant boat tragedy as bodies repatriated


“If I don’t call you back, it’s because I’ll be in England,” Shakar Ali said in his last message to his family as he attempted to cross the Channel from France to Britain.

But the inflatable boat he took with some 30 other irregular migrants will never reach the British coast.

Almost a month after at least 27 of those migrants drowned, the families of 16 of them were finally closed on Sunday as their bodies arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The remains arrived before dawn at the airport in Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital, where dozens of men, women and children had gathered.

Among those in mourning, some kissed women dressed in black were crying while others showed photos of their lost parents.

Clutching his cane to his chest, an elderly man with a white beard showed on his phone a photo of his son Afrasia, who was only 24 years old.

The November 24 tragedy has been described by the International Organization for Migration as the biggest loss of life in the Channel since the United Nations agency began recording data in 2014.

The raw wooden coffins were placed in ambulances which transported them to their hometowns of Darbandikhan, Qadrewa, Ranya and Soran.

A woman sobbed as she rested her face against a window pane. Nearby, two teenagers also seemed to be shaken. One of them leaned his head against a coffin, saying his final farewell.

“Each time he failed”In central Ranya, hundreds of people gathered in a mosque to honor the three victims of the Kurdish town.

The bodies were washed in the traditional Muslim way. The crowd filled a large prayer hall, and in the heavy silence, the murmurs of funeral prayers could be heard.

Shakar Ali, 30, left his home two months ago, making the long journey via Turkey, Greece, then Italy, before his Mediterranean journey ended in France.

“He has attempted the crossing to Great Britain seven times,” said his older brother Shamal. “Each time he failed.

Three years earlier, Shakar, who had a degree in petroleum geology, was looking for a job.

“He was unemployed until he left,” continued his brother, a teacher.

He blamed the recent tragedy on the lack of employment opportunities, as well as on the policies of the authorities of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan.

“Because of this, hundreds of families have lost a child.

At Ranya cemetery, the young man’s wrapped body was hoisted onto the shoulders of the male relatives.

A crowd gathered as the body was lowered into the grave.

The youngest of the family, Ramyar, remembers his last conversation with his brother.

“He told us’ We have started the crossing. If I call you, it means the coast guard has stopped us,” “said the 20-year-old.

“‘If I don’t call you back, it’s because I will have arrived in England,” “he continued.

“Bride of the sea”Originally scheduled to arrive on Friday, the repatriation of 16 Iraqi Kurdish victims has been postponed twice.

Among the 26 bodies identified in France were 17 men and 7 women aged 19 to 46, as well as a 16-year-old teenager and a 7-year-old child.

Besides the 16 Iraqi Kurds, the victims also included an Iranian Kurd, a Somali, four Afghans and an Egyptian.

Only two survivors were found, an Iraqi Kurd and a Sudanese national.

French investigators are still trying to get a better idea of ​​what happened during the disaster.

They investigated reports that the passengers telephoned the French and UK emergency services, calling for help when the ship began to sink.

Iraqi Kurdish family of Channel shipwreck victim mourns death

At Arbil airport, young Baran’s family hung a banner on the back of a moving ambulance that brought her body back to her hometown of Soran.

On the banner next to a smiling photo of the young woman, it was written “Bride of the sea”.

Maryam Nuri Hama Amin – known as “Baran” by her family, a name which means “rain” in Kurdish – was only in her twenties when she left on the trip.

She was one of the first identified Kurdish victims of the disaster.

She was planning to join her fiancé, already in Great Britain, in the hope of looking for a “better life”, her father had told AFP shortly after the tragedy.

While the drama was the worst on record in the English Channel, at least 30 people have died this week in just three shipwrecks off the coast of the Greek islands.

Among the survivors were Syrians, Egyptians and Iraqis.



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