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‘Please don’t go by boat’: Migrant family who died in Channel were warned not to attempt journey

Written by on 28 October 2020

A Kurdish-Iranian family, who died when their migrant boat capsized in the English Channel, were warned not to undertake the perilous voyage because of bad weather conditions.

Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammed Panahi, both 35, drowned alongside two of their children, six-year-old Armin and Anita, who was nine.

A third child, Artin, who was just 15 months old, is still missing at sea.

Choman Manish said he spoke to the family most days at their makeshift home in a jungle camp on the outskirts of Dunkirk, France.

The 37-year-old Kurd from Iraq told Sky News that they were a “beautiful friendly family”.

French rescuers have said there is no hope of finding any more survivors from the boat

He said the family had told him of their plans to join others on a small boat, which was to set off from Dunkirk to the UK early on Tuesday morning.

Some 15 people were rescued following the sinking.

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French search teams have said there is no hope of finding any more survivors from the vessel.

Mr Manish said: “I’m really so sad because I know this family. I advised them, please don’t go by boat, it’s not good and a really bad situation if you stay in the water.

“I said, it will be bad for you. They told me God is big. I know God is big, but what can I do.

“I told them many times, but they never accepted my word.. they trusted in God, they think God will protect them.”

Mr Manish has been camped at the Dunkirk jungle for more than four months, along with more than 500 other migrants, all hoping to reach the UK.

Many in the camp are Kurdish and the news of the Channel tragedy had hit them hard.

He said: “Everyone is really sad over here. We are very sorry for hearing that, but what can we do.”

Conditions in the camp are squalid. The torrential rain of the last few days has turned the ground into a mud bath.

A policeman stands next to a rescue vessel during a search operation after a boat carrying about 20 migrants capsized off the coast of Loon-Plage near Dunkirk, northern France, October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
A number of migrants were rescued after the sinking

Mr Manish said people are still desperate to get across the Channel and will try by small boat, even during the winter months.

He said the people traffickers are still operating and have plenty of customers.

“Yes, they are still working and there is still many people wanting to go. They’re not going to stop, when the wind is good, they try.”

The 37-year-old has been on the road for four years, since leaving Iraq.

He was jailed for a year by the Greek authorities and said he had been ill-treated in several other European countries.

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He has, he said, tried to reach the UK by small boat on 11 separate occasions. But each time, he was stopped before reaching the boat, or turned back in the water.

He said he now plans to abandon his dream of reaching the UK and will instead head to Belgium in the coming days, where he plans to seek asylum there.