Published: 07:49, 26 November 2021
| Updated: 20:07, 26 November 2021
A 24-year-old hoping to join her fiance in the UK has been named as the first victim of the Channel tragedy which claimed 28 lives.
Mariam Nouri Hamadameen, a Kurdish woman from the northern Iraqi city of Ranya, had travelled via Germany into France and was six miles into the perilous trip when her partner, who was tracking her progress on his phone, lost the GPS signal.
The student, known to her family as Baran, was one of seven women on board the overcrowded dinghy, which also contained two teenage boys and a girl.
"Her mother and father are totally devastated," her cousin Krmanj Ezzat told Sky News.
"The situation is just awful. She was a woman in the prime of her life.
"Anyone who wants to leave their home and travel to Europe has their own reasons and hopes, so please just help them in a better way and not force them to take this route of death."
Two men from Somalia and Iraq survived the tragedy and said the boat had been struck and punctured by a cargo ship.
Mariam's partner earlier spoke of his fears that his wife was among those who died.
The man told The Daily Telegraph that he was following her movements when the signal abruptly cut off.
The paper reported that the man is a Kurdish immigrant living in the UK who did not wish to be named.
He said tearfully: “She is not in the UK, which means that she is gone. It is very sad for me, and for everyone.
“I had continuous contact with my wife and I was tracking her live GPS.
“After four hours and 18 minutes from the moment she went into that boat, I think they were in the middle of the sea, then I lost her”.
He said he had spoken to his wife on the phone before her signal disappeared, and she had told him that there were some 30 people crowded onto her dinghy.
They included other Kurdish women, one of whom was a girl aged about nine, and Afghan nationals.
When he heard that a vessel had capsized in the sea off France, the man called the people traffickers who had organised the crossing but they told him they could not reach any of the people on board.
Wednesday’s tragedy claimed the lives of 17 men, seven women – including a pregnant woman – and three children, according to authorities.
A joint search and rescue operation by the French and British authorities that was launched after a fishing boat spotted people in the sea was called off late on Wednesday.
The French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident.
The Dover Strait is the busiest shipping lane in the world and many people have perished trying to cross to Britain in inflatable dinghies.