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Candlelit vigil for Iranian-Kurdish family who died in Channel after boat capsized at Dunkirk


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"It's a government failing from the British and French alike."

This was the concern from Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN) at a candlelit vigil on Dover seafront to honour the lives of the Iranian-Kurdish family who died in the Channel.

Kay Marsh from Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN)
Kay Marsh from Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN)

The socially distanced gathering took place by the memorial plaques, between the Premier Inn and the Eastern Docks, on Friday evening.

Almost 100 people attended with groups using the meeting to send a clear message to government - to open safe and legal routes for people to seek asylum in the UK.

It comes after a boy and a girl, reportedly aged six and nine, perished in the sea off Dunkirk after a flimsy boat they were travelling in capsized, on Tuesday.

Kay Marsh, from KARN, said: "When these completely avoidable tragedies happen, they are felt in Dover as a community and we felt it was important to give people the opportunity to pay their respects.

"We held the vigil at the site of two memorial plaques, which commemorate over 200 people, who also lost their lives desperately seeking sanctuary.

The family who died in the Channel Picture: @aidaghajar
The family who died in the Channel Picture: @aidaghajar

"These needless deaths lay at the door of the British Government.

"It's time they started to listen to us, to stop these unnecessary tragedies happening again. It's a government failing from the British and French alike.

"The solution is there: open safe, legal routes to asylum and stop pushing desperate people to risk their lives trying to find safety."

The children who died have been named as Armin and Anita, who were travelling with their parents Rasoul Iran-Nejad, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, both 35.

Their baby, 15-month old Artin is still missing but rescuers are no longer searching the water.

Flowers were laid at the plaques during the vigil
Flowers were laid at the plaques during the vigil

Bridget Chapman, from Kent Refugee Action Network, said: “I work for a refugee charity and I am painfully aware of just how difficult it is to claim asylum in the UK.

"I am heartbroken at the deaths of the family and the thought of baby Artin's body, still out there somewhere in the cold waters of the Channel.

"I felt I had to come tonight, to remember them, lay some flowers, and pay my respects.

"The government must organise safe and legal routes so that people like this poor family do not have to risk their lives to get here.

"It's no good saying that they should stay in France. People have a right to seek asylum here and we have to find a way for them to do that safely."

One of hundreds of vessel that crossed the channel this summer, overloaded with more people the boats can safely carry
One of hundreds of vessel that crossed the channel this summer, overloaded with more people the boats can safely carry

The Home Office has previously said it is "fixing the broken asylum system to make it fairer and firmer and compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “This tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel and I will do everything I can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people."

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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