Identifying victims of Channel tragedy may take weeks, say charities

Few details have emerged of the 27 people who drowned and families are desperately awaiting news on whether their loved ones were among them.

Sophie Wingate
Monday 29 November 2021 14:57
Humanitarian organisations have said that identifying the victims of the Channel disaster is a “very complicated” process that could take weeks (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Humanitarian organisations have said that identifying the victims of the Channel disaster is a “very complicated” process that could take weeks (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Identifying the victims of the Channel disaster is a “very complicated” process that could take weeks, according to humanitarian organisations involved in the efforts.

Some details have emerged of the 27 people who died after a dinghy sank while crossing to Britain last Wednesday, on what was the deadliest day of the migration crisis.

But many families are still anxiously awaiting news on whether their loved ones were among them.

The families who stay home, they don’t realise that people are in such danger once they arrive in Europe

Maya Konforti, L'Auberge Des Migrants

A special group made up of representatives from Calais-based charities is working to help provide that confirmation, according to Maya Konforti, from the refugee organisation L’Auberge Des Migrants.

She told the PA news agency: “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.”

She 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.

A dinghy arrives on a beach in Kent as people continue to risk death for a better life (Gareth Fuller/PA)

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 told PA: “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.”

(PA Graphics)

“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.

“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.

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.

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