The devastated father of the first confirmed victim of the Channel migrant tragedy has accused France of allowing ‘butchers’ to send innocent people to their deaths.
Baran Nouri Hamadamin was one of 27 people who drowned after a flimsy boat capsized six miles off Calais during stormy weather this week.
The newly engaged student had travelled through Germany and France to join her fiancé in the UK, paying human-traffickers to take her across the Narrow Sea.
Five people have been arrested in France over the deaths but Calais police have so far failed to charge anyone despite Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin insisting that all those detained were ‘directly linked’.
The tragedy has sparked another diplomatic spat between London and Paris, with Emmanuel Macron accusing Boris Johnson of breaking French sovereignty after the Prime Minister tweeted an open letter to him outlining a five-point action plan to clampdown on people-smugglers.
In an extraordinary fit of pique, the French government withdrew Home Secretary Priti Patel’s invitation to a crisis meeting today.
Home Office minister Damian Hinds this morning defended Mr Johnson’s letter, telling Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Nobody is proposing breaching sovereignty; the Prime Minister’s letter proposes doing things which go further than we have gone to date.’
He added: ‘The tone of the letter is exceptionally supportive and collaborative, it absolutely acknowledges everything the French government and authorities have been doing, that its a shared challenge, but that now, particularly prompted by this awful tragedy, we have to go further, we have to deepen our partnership, we have to broaden what we do, we have to draw up new creative solutions.’
Speaking from his home in Soran, in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Miss Hamadamin’s father Nuri Mohammed Amin urged President Emmanuel Macron to stop allowing people-smugglers to treat people ‘like animals’.
Miss Hamadamin, a newly engaged student, had travelled through Germany and France to join her fiancé in the UK, paying human-traffickers to take her across the Narrow Sea.
She had been sending Snapchat messages to her fiancé Karzan Asaad before the dinghy began to lose air. As he tracked her phone GPS, the signal went dead just over four hours into the journey – and she tried to reassure him in her last message that rescuers were on the way. Her body was tragically identified by a relative at a French morgue yesterday.
Mr Amin said: ‘This is a tragedy not only for me but for the whole of Kurdistan and the world. I ask the French government to tighten their borders and stop those butchers. They are not smugglers, they are mafias. This is my only request.
‘Those boats that they are using are not made for that purpose. They treat those poor people like animals. Where were her human rights? It is the role of the French government to have a strict procedure to stop those butchers to avoid further tragedies. And I hope our people stop even thinking about migrating using similar ways.’
Smugglers threatened to shoot migrants, including bride-to-be Mariam Nouri Dargalayi (pictured with fiance), unless they boarded the doomed dinghy that went down in Channel
Policemen inspect the beach near Wimereux, France on November 25, 2021
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during the press conference with Prime Minister Mario Draghi at Villa Madama in Rome
This is the first picture of the flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais, killing 27 people
Up to 50 people were supposed to board two boats ahead of the fatal voyage – but one vessel suffered engine trouble, those stuck in camps in France claimed. Rather than curtail the trip that would have netted them tens of thousands of pounds, the gun-toting gang corralled the migrants into one boat, it was said
The new arrivals bring the total number to have made it to the UK this month to more than 6,000, exceeding the previous record of 3,879 in September. This year’s total is now a record-breaking 25,772
How many UK-bound migrants have died trying to cross the Channel this year?
Before this week’s accident, a total of seven people were confirmed to have died trying to make it across the Channel to Britain this year.
A further seven migrants were missing, presumed drowned, after various incidents this year.
March 2021: One migrant missing and feared drowned after the boat he was in trying to reach the UK capsized.
August 2021: At least two migrants drowned off the coast of the UK while another died after being airlifted to hospital as part of a huge air and sea rescue operation after a boat carrying around 40 people began taking on water.
October 2021: Three Somali migrants feared to have drowned after falling overboard while trying to reach Britain. A further four people, including two children, died while crossing.
November 2021: One migrant dies in day of record 853 crossings in early November. Yesterday, at least 27 migrants died off the coast of Calais in the deadliest ever incident in the Channel.
Friends of the migrants who drowned in the Channel this week said yesterday that people-smugglers threatened to show them unless they boarded the overcrowded dinghy.
Up to 50 people were supposed to board two boats ahead of the fatal voyage – but one vessel suffered engine trouble, those stuck in camps in France claimed. Rather than curtail the trip that would have netted them tens of thousands of pounds, the gun-toting gang corralled the migrants into one boat, it was said.
The chilling details emerged as more were named among those feared drowned in Wednesday’s tragedy off the coast of Calais.
Mr Hinds told the BBC this morning: ‘British and French officials have been working together throughout, in fact we’ve been working together for years on these really important issues. The partnership is strong.
‘The tone of the letter is exceptionally supportive and collaborative, it absolutely acknowledges everything the French government and authorities have been doing, that its a shared challenge, but that now, particularly prompted by this awful tragedy, we have to go further, we have to deepen our partnership, we have to broaden what we do, we have to draw up new creative solutions.’
He also defended Mr Johnson’s suggestion of Britain joining patrols of French beaches to reduce the numbers of people crossing the Channel in small boats.
‘Nobody is proposing breaching sovereignty; the Prime Minister’s letter proposes doing things which go further than we have gone to date.’
Mr Hinds acknowledged the challenges of policing the French coastline, but added: ‘There is more that can be done and clearly we can’t just say it’s difficult because it’s hundreds of miles of coastline, we have to do what’s necessary to save human life.’
He did not say how much of the £54million Britain had offered to France to clamp down on Channel crossings has been paid but said ‘more than a euro has been paid’, after criticism from the French.
Mr Asad, who is said to have British citizenship and is now working as a barber in Bournemouth, said: ‘I am in a very bad state. It is very sad for me, and for everyone. I had continuous contact with my wife and I was tracking her live with GPS. After four hours and 18 minutes, from the moment she went into that boat, I think they were in the middle of the sea, then I lost her.
‘She was a happy person. Someone went to see her body in France, so I know it’s her.’
Last night a cousin in Iraq, Krmanj Ezzat, said: ‘Her mother and father are totally devastated. The situation is just awful. She was a woman in the prime of her life. It’s a total tragedy and the whole family are in shock.
‘I understand why so many people are leaving for a better life, but this is not the correct path. It’s the route of death. Please don’t take this route, it’s not worth it. Baran chose a very difficult way to come to Britain and you see what happened to her. Karzan was waiting for her in England. She was learning English, she was very smart.’
Mr Ezzat fears four more family members were also on the boat. Yesterday, the family of Deniz Ahmed Mohammed, a 27-year-old Kurd, said he left them a final voicemail saying: ‘Just pray for us.’
Childhood friends Harem Pirot and Shakar Ali, from the town of Ranya, northern Iraq, were also among the feared victims.
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
Friend of Shakar and Harem Sanger Ahmed also told of his fears for two other Iraqi Kurds – Hassan, in his late twenties, and Twana Muhammad (pictured), 18, a student
The family of 27-year-old Deniz Ahmed Mohammed (left) said he left them a final voicemail saying ‘just pray for us’, while Riaz Mohammed, 12, (right) is also feared to be among dead
Police search Wimereux beaches near Bolougne from this morning days after 27 migrants died heading to the UK as Storm Arwen threatens to take more lives if more people try to cross
Deflated dinghies used to carry migrants across the Channel pictured at a storage facility in Whitfield, Dover
Rows of vessels used to ferry migrants and refugees are being kept as evidence for smuggler prosecutions
How are people smuggling gangs exploiting English Channel crossings?
The sinking of a migrant boat with the loss of 27 lives off the coast of France has once again raised concerns about the people-smuggling trade.
For years law enforcement on both sides of the English Channel have been playing a game of cat and mouse with criminal gangs as tactics change and evolve.
National Crime Agency (NCA) deputy director Andrea Wilson said: ‘We look to target and disrupt organised crime groups involved in people smuggling at every step of the route.
‘Much of this criminality lies outside the UK, so we have built up our intelligence-sharing effort with law enforcement partners in France and beyond.
‘This includes having NCA officers based in those countries, sharing intelligence and working side by side on joint investigations.
‘This approach is bringing operational results in the form of arrests and prosecutions, as we have seen with this particular case.
One focus in the UK and abroad has been on disrupting the supply of dinghies and other vessels that could be used in Channel crossings.
The sale of dinghies in French towns has reportedly been banned, with kayaks seen withdrawn from sale at a Calais store.
However one alleged smuggling gang targeted by police last year was thought to have been buying inflatable boats and engines from as far away as Germany and the Netherlands.
In the last couple of years, inflatable boats used in crossings have got bigger and bigger, now able to carry dozens of people – but not safely.
Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Government have repeatedly pledged to make the Channel route ‘unviable’, but the NCA previously said it views organised immigration crime as a ‘continuous threat’.
Earlier this month, an international operation saw 18 people arrested by French border police in the Calais, Le Havre and Paris regions of France.
More than 100,000 euros in cash and bank accounts was also seized.
The organised crime group (OCG) was involved in the supply of boats which would each be able to carry between 40 and 60 people, the NCA said.
The network would then arrange departures from the shore of northern France, recruiting migrants in the various camps there.
Ms Wilson said much of the NCA’s work has to be done covertly, but added: ‘We know it is having an impact.
‘We are continuing to look at ways to disrupt the supply of vessels to people-smuggling OCGs, and target those who knowingly do so.’
A joint UK-France intelligence cell that started in July 2020 has been involved in almost 300 arrests relating to small boat crossings, the Home Office said earlier this month.
Their friend Sanger Ahmed said: ‘I spoke to them on the phone on the morning they went. They were saying it was only a tiny boat and people smugglers might shoot people if they tried to back out. They suspected the boat was overcrowded with around 50 people on it. I think they could have been forced on the boat.
‘People smugglers are armed and don’t care if the boat is overloaded or if the weather is bad. We have all heard the stories about people being threatened with a gun unless they get on.’
In the squalid camp near Dunkirk, where the doomed migrants waited for a chance to attempt the crossing, numerous sources have made shocking claims to the Daily Mail about what happened on Wednesday lunchtime.
Two boats had been set to leave from the Loon-Plage beach, just outside Dunkirk. Sources described how one of the boats had suffered engine problems, yet the greedy smugglers did not want to miss out on their cash windfall.
‘The smugglers told the migrants that the remaining boat was completely new and so it would be strong enough to carry all of them,’ said one source inside the camp.
Another migrant said: ‘It is all about money for them. There are too many people who have too much to lose.’
The overcrowded dinghy, around 30ft long, was so flimsy it was likened to a children’s paddling pool, and appears to have simply crumpled after either taking on water or colliding with a ship.
The Mail told yesterday how migrant Mohammed Aziz, 31, made a frantic phone call to his friend Peshraw Aziz and said: ‘It’s not good, the engine isn’t powerful enough – I don’t know if we’re going to make it.’
Multiple sources in the camp have claimed the boat could have had as many as 50 people on board, and the French authorities are braced for the death toll – currently at 27 – to rise.
Speaking of his friends, Sanger said he has known Harem, thought to be 23, and Shakar, a 27-year-old geology graduate, all his life and they were all neighbours in Ranya, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Sanger said he travelled with Harem and Shakar to Turkey.
His friends made their way to France via Italy while he decided to come via Belarus, and the trio arranged to meet up in France.
Sanger also told of his fears for two other Iraqi Kurds – Hassan, in his late twenties, and Twana Muhammad, 18, a student. He also believes an Iranian called Sirwan, aged around 25, and a man called Hever, in his 20s and from Ranya, may have died. The youngest victim is feared to be Riaz Mohammed, 12, who was pictured wearing a life jacket.
Sanger added: ‘I’m not sure if I will get a boat now – if there’s a chance on a lorry I might not take that risk.’
Migrants in the camp told the Mail police controls are so lax that traffickers brazenly launch their human cargo in broad daylight in full view of security officers.
Karl Maquinghen, a French skipper who has been at sea for 21 years, sounded the alarm on Wednesday afternoon when he found bodies floating in the water.
‘Seeing so many dead people right next to us, it was like a horror film,’ he said yesterday.
‘You can’t sleep – as soon as you close your eyes, you see bodies again. We were petrified to even pull up the nets for fear there was one inside. If we had arrived five minutes earlier, we might have been able to save them.’
A relative of Deniz said his family in Ranya feared the worst. ‘He was suffering poverty then spent everything he collected to go to the UK, and this is what happened,’ nephew Darya said.
‘My grandfather hasn’t even eaten until now. It is like a funeral for them.’
A final voicemail from Deniz said: ‘Now we are on the water, Inshalla [God willing] we will arrive safely. Just pray for us.’
Kent MP Craig Mackinlay said that with Storm Arwen set to blast 75mph winds towards France, Macron must ensure that nobody crosses today to avoid more deaths in the Channel. But despite the warning only small groups of police were seen on patrol near Calais.
Militant French fishermen blocked lorries from entering the Channel Tunnel yesterday
Other pictures from the protest showed fishermen burning pallets in front of stranded lorries
A man holds a sign that translates as ‘Save our migrant brothers and sisters’ at a memorial for people who have died while crossing the English Channel
A migrant prays at a makeshift migrant camp in Loon Beach – the day after 27 migrants died crossing the Channel – in Dunkerque near Calais
Migrants in Grand Synthe near Dunkirk, France who still hope to cross the English Channel
Migrants who were found soaked after a failed attempt to cross the Channel walk out from a shelter and take a bus to a warm place, in the rue des huttes in Calais
He told MailOnline: ‘The French should be putting maximum on the ground resources across the 20 miles of high risk beaches north and south of Calais. Bad weather will push the traffickers to use the shortest possible route’.
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: ‘Conditions on the English Channel look set to become even more treacherous in the coming days.
‘It’s urgent that France works with the UK and EU allies to stop more lives being lost. No-one should be making this kind of journey across a stormy sea. The French authorities should appeal for people to heed the weather forecast and stay where they are.’
The Elysee Palace had already warned Mr Johnson not to ‘exploit’ the disaster for political gain, but the premier penned a letter overnight with a five-point plan for cooperation. His urgent five-point plan included measures such as starting joint patrols with France to stop boats leaving French beaches, deploying sensors and radar technology and using airborne surveillance.
Mr Johnson also argued that France should agree to take back migrants who reach Britain, saying it would have a ‘significant’ impact on the migrant crisis and reduce the dangers posed by people traffickers.
Setting out his five-point plan, he tweeted: ‘Tonight I have written to President Macron offering to move further and faster to prevent Channel crossings and avoid a repeat of yesterday’s appalling tragedy which claimed the lives of at least 27 people.
A refugee looks out from his tent at dawn in the new Jungle on November 26, 2021
A refugee lights a fire to keep warm at daybreak in the new Jungle on November 26, 2021
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron went into meltdown at Boris Johnson (pictured) branding the PM ‘not serious’ for sending a five-point plan with demands for ending migrant tragedies
‘I pay tribute to the emergency services who have been dealing with this devastating situation.
‘Following our conversation last night I know President Macron recognises, as I do, the urgency of the situation we are both facing. If those who reach this country were swiftly returned the incentive for people to put their lives in the hands of traffickers would be significantly reduced. This would be the single biggest step we could take together to reduce the draw to Northern France and break the business model of criminal gangs.
‘I am confident that by taking these steps and building on our existing cooperation we can address illegal migration and prevent more families from experiencing the devastating loss we saw yesterday.’
Since he published the plan, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told Miss Patel that she is no longer welcome at the crisis meeting on Sunday.
A spokesman for Mr Darmanin, who accused Britain of ‘bad immigration management’ and enticing migrants with benefits and slack labour rules, said: ‘We consider Boris Johnson’s public letter unacceptable and in opposition with discussions between counterparts.
‘As a consequence, Priti Patel is not invited anymore to the meeting on Sunday.’
Former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who is running for the French presidency in looming elections, also waded into the spat accusing Mr Johnson of being ‘in a state of mind of confrontation on all subjects’.
Wednesday’s tragedy deepened animosity between Britain and France, already at odds over post-Brexit trade rules and fishing rights. Mr Johnson said France was at fault and Mr Darmanin accused Britain of ‘bad immigration management’.