A Kurdish migrant who couldn’t swim survived the Channel tragedy that killed 27 people due to a lifejacket as he revealed to his family that he would attempt the crossing again.
Mohammed Shekha, 21, a shepherd from the Kurdish region of Iran, had been travelling to the UK to find a job to pay for younger sister Fatima’s medical bills, which doctors told them would cost thousands of pounds.
Mohammed sent his mother a voice message at 8.35pm on Tuesday from a migrant camp in France before attempting the crossing.
He said: ‘Mum we are leaving right now. He is saying we have to switch our phones off.
‘It’s not like last time, Ok? We are leaving, God willing. Pray for me.’
Shekha said to his brother Marwan, 18, that the smugglers weren’t sure about the attempt due to poor weather conditions.
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
Marwan told The Sunday Times: ‘It’s a miracle. He can’t swim at all. I don’t know how it happened.’
He added: ‘All of a sudden, he found himself in the water too.
‘He said he can’t stop thinking about the other people who died in front of him. It keeps coming back in his mind. He didn’t know how to rescue the women who fell in.’
Mohammed used a network of smugglers to make his way from Syria to Belarus, then across the border to Poland and Germany, before ending up in Northern France – the final stop before the perilous Channel crossing.
He had attempted a crossing previously, but was hauled back to shore by French border officers.
Mohammed is one of only two people to have survived the Channel tragedy on Wednesday alongside a Somali man named Omar, aged in his 20s, who was taken to a French hospital and treated for hypothermia.
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
The flimsy and dangerous dinghy that sank off Calais on Wednesday, killing 27 people including seven women – one of whom was pregnant – and three children
Dozens of anti-racism protestors gathered outside 10 Downing Street yesterday during a protest after 27 migrants drowned in the English Channel earlier this week
The protestors touted placards and signs which read ‘stand up to racism’ and ‘refugees are welcome here’ as they clamoured for the Government to prevent further migrant deaths
A total of 27 people are believed to have died earlier this week when the flimsy rubber dinghy carrying Mohammed and dozens of migrants deflated and sank in the Channel.
The shipwreck represents the deadliest disaster since at least 2018 when migrants began using boats en masse to cross the Channel to England.
Since the shipwreck, the bodies of the passengers have been held in a morgue in France, but no official information has yet been released about the identities and nationalities of the 17 men, seven women and three minors.
Meanwhile, hundreds of anti-racism protestors descended on Whitehall yesterday, calling on the government to prevent further migrant deaths by relaxing border restrictions.
It comes as a union representing Border Force staff said it has joined a legal fight to prevent boats carrying migrants being turned away from the UK.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said pressure is mounting to reverse plans to make Border Force staff stop boats reaching this country.
The union said if the Government refuses to abandon the policy, it could launch judicial review proceedings in the coming weeks.
Scores of migrants are battling freezing temperatures with no running water or sanitation in a series of camps in and around Calais and Dunkirk.
They have made their way to Northern France via a network of smugglers and are forced to pay what little money they have to secure a place on one of the daring crossings on tiny boats and dinghies not made to withstand the ferocity of Channel waters.
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
Migrants are living in camps in and around Calais and Dunkirk, battling freezing temperatures with no running water or sanitation
Migrants in the camps are forced to pay smugglers to help them move across borders before attempting to organise daring crossings using tiny boats and dinghies not equipped to handle the ferocity of the Channel
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘Our Border Force members are aghast at the thought they will be forced to implement such a cruel and inhumane policy.
‘Migrants who are trying to reach this country should be allowed to do so via safe routes so that their claims can be assessed here.
‘If the Government does not abandon this appalling approach, we will pursue all legal avenues including a judicial review.
‘PCS will not rule out all forms of industrial action, including disrupting the implementation of the pushback policy if the Home Secretary insists on going ahead.’
Civil servants hand £90k to radical group that wants end to all borders
A radical migration campaign group that promotes ‘abolishing borders’ and blamed last week’s 27 Channel boat deaths on government policy receives state funding, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Migrants Organise, which has arranged protests outside the Home Office over the migration crisis, has received nearly £90,000 in Whitehall grants over the past three years, Freedom of Information documents have shown.
Civil servants are accused of being ‘determined to prop up pressure groups with taxpayers’ cash’ in signing off the funding.
The grants have been given by the Home Office, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Greater London Authority. They have given the group £21,502, £40,842 and £27,500 respectively since 2018.
Recent social-media posts by Migration Organise include describing the Government’s immigration policy as ‘cruel and inhumane’. One read: ‘The whole damn system has to go!’
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: ‘We are incredibly proud to be joined in this action by PCS.
‘Not only will this challenge represent the interest of desperate people forced to risk their lives, it will also represent those who may well be forced to implement it.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We are seeing an unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings and as part of our ongoing operational response, we continue our work to safely prevent such illegal crossings.
‘The health, safety and wellbeing of our officers is paramount when undertaking their operational duties, which is why we provide extensive training and ensure all operational procedures comply and are delivered in accordance with domestic and international law.
‘Last summer we held a formal consultation on new maritime tactics with the unions. We continue to work closely with all the trade unions and welcome their ongoing feedback.’
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing pressure from Ministers and MPs over her handling of the Channel migrant crisis.
The Prime Minister is understood to have privately rebuked Ms Patel for failing to ‘get a grip’ on the issue, and was joined in his criticisms by other Ministers at a meeting in the wake of the drowning tragedy.
A source said: ‘She has had two years to sort this out, but the situation is worse than ever. She is happy to bask in the limelight when things are going well, but seems to go missing when it goes wrong.’
Ms Patel was due to meet President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the crisis this weekend, but the French government cancelled the meeting in a fit of pique after receiving an open letter from Boris Johnson, posted on Twitter, which Mr Macron claimed breached protocol.
In a further escalation of rhetoric, Michel Barnier, the EU’s former Brexit negotiator, who is running in France’s presidential election, urged France to tear up its migrant treaty with the UK.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing pressure from Ministers and MPs over her handling of the Channel migrant crisis after 27 migrants drowned
Girl, 5, feared dead in Channel tragedy was bringing a teddy bear for her father as family hoped to be reunited in the UK
- The Kurdish family lived in a squalid camp in Dunkirk before attempting crossing
- A friend said they were hoping to be reunited with children’s father in the UK
- The family, from Darbandikhan in Iraqi Kurdistan, left a month ago for Turkey
- They then took a boat to Italy before travelling to France in the back of lorries
ByAbul Taherand Scarlet Howes In Dunkirk For The Mail On Sunday
A mother and her four children, including a daughter aged just five, are feared to be among those who drowned in last week’s Channel tragedy.
The Kurdish family, who lived in a squalid camp in Dunkirk before attempting the crossing, are thought to be among at least 27 migrants who died when their flimsy dinghy capsized in freezing waters on Wednesday.
A friend at the Grande-Synthe camp said they were hoping to be reunited in the UK with the children’s father and that they had been so excited by the prospect that they had bought a teddy bear for him.
The family were from Darbandikhan in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Khazal Ahmad Khdir, 42, was travelling with her son, Twana Mamand Muhammad Hussein, 19, daughter Hadya Rizger, 17, son Mobeen, 15, and five-year-old daughter Hasty.
They left Iraq a month ago for Turkey. From there they took a boat to Italy before travelling to France in the back of lorries, according to friends at the camp.
Khazal Ahmad Khdir, 42, (pictured far left) was travelling with her son, Twana Mamand Muhammad Hussein, 19, daughter Hadya Rizger (pictured far right), 17, son Mobeen (pictured centre), 15, and five-year-old daughter Hasty (pictured bottom)
Twana Mamand Muhammad Hussein, 19, (pictured) is among those missing feared dead in the Channel tragedy
News that the family was missing and feared dead appeared on Facebook, where one relative said Khazal and her children had made phone calls from the boat before their handsets fell silent.
‘Even in the boat there were phone calls,’ the relative said. ‘We were with them. But that night we heard news about the drowning.
‘We have not heard from them since. Please spread the news, we are looking for information.’
The doomed dinghy left Loon-Plage beach near Dunkirk carrying up to 30 people.
Despite initial reports that it had been struck by a larger vessel, it is now believed that the dinghy capsized when it began taking on water and its occupants panicked.
Harem Pirot, 23, from Ranya, Iraqi-Kurdistan is believed to have drowned when the dinghy carrying up to 30 migrants capsized in the Channel on Wednesday
Shakar Ali also known as Shakar Pirot, aged 27 from Ranya, Iraqi-Kurdistan, is among those believed to have been killed in the tragic Channel crossing attempt
It emerged on Friday that Kurdish student Maryam Nuri Muhammadamin was among the dead.
The 24-year-old, known as Baran, was hoping to be reunited with her fiancé in Bournemouth.
Another Kurdish woman, called Mahabad, 23, from Erbil, was also reported yesterday to be among the victims, as was Bryar Hamad Abdulrahman, 24, also from Erbil.
Bryar’s mother, Shukrya Bakr, 44, told Kurdish media that he had told her on the phone: ‘I will resume my phone call with you on the other side of [the Channel], inshallah [God willing].
‘That was the last time I spoke to him.’
Former campmates in Dunkirk suggested three further names for victims, who had each paid around £3,000 for a place on the boat.
They were Rezhwan Yasin, Mohammed Kader and Zanear Mustafa from Ranya in Iraqi Kurdistan.
A Somali migrant called Abdul Wahab, 23, is also feared to have died.
His brother Muse, 22, said: ‘I am so sad. I had to tell our mother in Somalia and she cried and cried. I don’t know how she will cope.’
Bryar Hamad Abdulrahman, 24, (pictured) is also believed to be among the 27 who died in the English Channel on Wednesday
Muhammed Hussein is also believed to be among those who are feared dead following the failed Channel crossing
Detectives from France’s Organised Crime squad are leading the investigation and fear the death toll could rise further.
The only two survivors, an Iraqi Kurd named last night as Mohammed Shekha, a 21-year-old shepherd, and a Somalian named Omar, aged in his 20s, have described scenes of ‘mass panic’ to officers as the dinghy began to deflate.
It comes as smugglers told one migrants family that Deniz Ahmed Mohammed, 27, had reached the UK safely.
‘I put him in last night and they reached the other side. Tell your family not to worry,’ said the gang leader.
The voice message was sent to obtain a full fee for the crossing, it was reported in The Sunday Telegraph.
A relative identified 21-year-old Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, known to her family as Baran, as one of those who died on what was the deadliest day of the migration crisis.
The student was said to have been trying to join her fiance, who already lives in Britain, as her cousin urged the British and French governments to help people resettle rather than ‘force them to take this route of death’.
Krmanj Ezzat Dargali told Sky News: ‘The situation is just awful. She was a woman in the prime of her life.
‘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.’
Also among those who died was Harem Pirot, 25, and his friend Twana Mamand Muhammad, both from Rayna in Iraq, according to The Observer.
Mr Pirot had been trying to reach England to meet his brother Anwar, a Sheffield graduate living in Cambridge.
The Observer also said there was 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.
Ms Hussein’s husband, Rezgar, said: ‘My wife and children were unhappy with our life here. They wanted us all to go to the UK.
‘I told them I couldn’t come because of my job as a policeman. I would lose it. They insisted to go so I agreed I would join them if they made it, and if they didn’t, they could come back. I never knew it was risky.’