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Channel crossing disaster: Tragic details emerge about asylum seekers who died trying to reach UK


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Two mothers and each of their four children - aged as young as five - are among those feared dead in Wednesday's Channel crossing tragedy.

Further details have come to light about those thought to have been aboard the doomed dinghy that sank in freezing waters between France and England, claiming 27 lives.

(Clockwise from left) Khazal Ahmad Khdir, 42, with her son Mobeen (centre), 15, her daughter Hadya Rizger, 17, and five-year-old daughter Hasty
(Clockwise from left) Khazal Ahmad Khdir, 42, with her son Mobeen (centre), 15, her daughter Hadya Rizger, 17, and five-year-old daughter Hasty

Among them are two mothers, each of whom was trying to reach the UK with their four children in search of a better life.

Khazal Ahmad Khdir, 42, was travelling with her sons Twana Mamand Muhammad Hussein, 19, and Mobeen, 15, and her daughters Hadya Rizger, 17, and Hasty, five.

The family were from Iraqi Kurdistan which they left about a month ago, embarking on a journey across Europe to a migrant camp in Dunkirk, France.

They are said to be missing following Wednesday's disaster, and it is believed they perished in the tragedy.

The family called a relative by phone from on-board the boat, before the line went dead, MailOnline reports.

The sunk dinghy off Calais. Picture: Local lifeboat crew
The sunk dinghy off Calais. Picture: Local lifeboat crew

The relative said: "We have not heard from them since. Please spread the news, we are looking for information."

The boat - which has been described by officials as "frail" and being "like a pool that you'd blow up in your garden" - left a beach near Dunkirk carrying up to 30 people before it tragically capsized.

At least 27 people are said to have perished in the disaster - the highest death toll on record in the current crisis.

Another mother and her four children are also feared to be among the dead.

Kazhal Rzgar, 46, had been trying to reach the UK with her daughters Hadya, 22, and Hasta seven, and her sons Twana, 19, and Mubin, 16.

A week before the disaster, the family told MailOnline how they dreamed of a new life across the Channel.

"When I get to England, I want to go to school and then get a job as a barber..."

They are said to have left the Kurdish administered area of Iraq for Turkey five months ago, before travelling by boat to Italy, and making their way to France stowed away in the back of lorries.

They were interviewed at an asylum seekers' camp near Dunkirk earlier this month, where they were piling blankets and warm clothes into an old supermarket trolley as the site was shut down by French police.

The family turned town the chance of claiming asylum in France as they hoped to settle in England, where they have family in Birmingham and hoped English would be easier to learn than French.

Mubin, 16, told MailOnline earlier this month: "We are staying here because we want to come to England. We think England is so nice. You can get a job, go to school and have good weather.

"It is hard living here in the cold and rain with no toilets and no money. But when I get to England, I want to go to school and then get a job as a barber.

Asylum seekers pictured in France. Picture: UKNIP
Asylum seekers pictured in France. Picture: UKNIP

"It is so dangerous on the boats, but we have to go."

His sister Hadya said she dreamed of becoming an artist or acting in films, once she reached the UK.

"In Iraq we have no money and no life," she said. "People are not good. Life is good in England. You have a home and everything is good."

The family is feared to have tragically died during the fateful crossing on Wednesday afternoon.

Kashal's husband Rezgar stayed behind in Iraq so he could keep his job as a policeman, but planned to join his family in England if they made it.

Emergency services work to recover bodies of at least 27 people who died in the Channel on Wednesday. Picture: UKNIP
Emergency services work to recover bodies of at least 27 people who died in the Channel on Wednesday. Picture: UKNIP

"I agreed I would join them if they made it, and if they didn’t, they could come back," he told the Observer from the family's home. "I never knew it was risky."

He last had contact with his wife and children at about 10pm on Tuesday.

"They said they were about to get on a boat," he said. "After that I didn’t hear from them again."

Wednesday's victims are also said to have included an expectant mother, and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq who was trying to reunite with her fiance in England.

Only two people are believed to have survived the disaster. Among them was 21-year-old Mohammed Shekha, who cannot swim but survived the tragedy thanks to a lifejacket.

He was found floating in the freezing cold waters, and taken to France.

"He went to the UK to seek a job and help our sister..."

His brother Marwan, 18, told the Sunday Times: "It’s a miracle. He can’t swim at all. I don’t know how it happened.”

But despite his deeply traumatic ordeal, Mohammed is determined to attempt the crossing again.

Mohammed, the eldest of six siblings, worked as a shepherd in the Kurdish region of Iran.

The Sunday Times told how the young man is desperate to reach the UK so he can make money, to send home so his 18-year-old sister Fatima could receive a vital operation costing thousands of dollars.

People smugglers are said to have told Mohammed and his brother it would be "easy".

“We are very, very poor,” said Marwan. “So he went to the UK to seek a job and help our sister.”

Speaking to his brother on Friday, two days after the deadly disaster, Mohammed said: "Don’t worry. I’m doing this for my family. If I come back, I can’t make a living. I’m going to try again."

Home Secretary Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA)
Home Secretary Priti Patel (Aaron Chown/PA)

'Urgent' talks set to take place

Priti Patel has discussed Channel boat crossings with the Dutch migration minister as she said she will hold “urgent talks” with her European counterparts this week.

The Home Secretary spoke with Ankie Broekers-Knol during a phone call on Sunday morning, with both agreeing over the need for countries to work together following the capsizing that killed 27 people.

Ms Patel also said it was “unfortunate” she could not be present as interior ministers from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission were meeting in Calais on Sunday to discuss small boat crossings.

The Home Office said: “They agreed that the tragic incidents of last week demonstrate the need for European partners to work together. It was clear that shared problems needed shared solutions.

“The Home Secretary expressed that it was unfortunate that she wouldn’t be present at today’s meeting of Interior Ministers in Calais to discuss this issue.”

They also discussed “ideas for enhanced bilateral and EU co-operation” as well as the need to tackle criminal gangs operating boat journeys across the Channel, it was said.

On Sunday, Ms Patel said on Twitter: “I will be holding urgent talks with my European counterparts this week to prevent further tragedies in the Channel.

“More international co-operation and passing our Borders Bill quickly into law will stop the people smugglers and save lives.”

She had said that failing to increase co-operation with Europe could cause “even worse scenes” in the Channel this winter.

Ms Patel wrote in the Sun on Sunday: “There should now be an even greater onus on all of us on both sides of the Channel to act.

“We have a long history of working constructively with our friends across the Channel on shared challenges.”

The Home Secretary added that she was “sorry” not to have been at the meeting in Calais.

Her invitation was withdrawn after Prime Minister Boris Johnson angered Emmanuel Macron by publicly sharing a letter he had written to the French president on how to deal with the issue.

She said conversations with her French counterpart, Gerald Darmanin, had been “constructive” on Thursday, though she did not repeat the term about their talks on Friday as the diplomatic row was peaking.

Labour shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “France blames Britain, Britain blames France. The truth is that both governments are engaging in a blame game while children drown off our coastline.

“It’s just simply unconscionable and any responsible government on either side of the Channel would set aside those differences and work together to deal with what is a collective share problem that will only be solved together.”

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