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Kurdish woman is first victim of Channel tragedy to be named

·2 min read

A Kurdish woman from northern Iraq has become the first victim of this week’s mass drowning in the Channel to be named.

Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin was messaging her fiance, who lives in the UK, when the group’s dinghy started deflating on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old was one of 27 people who died while attempting to cross from France to Britain.

She tried to reassure him that they would be rescued, he told the BBC. However, all but two passengers died off the northern French coast.

Related: Channel tragedy: ‘Smugglers tell their clients it’s just a lake – but it’s not’

Other casualties included 17 men, six other women, one of whom was pregnant, and three children. The disaster was the biggest loss of life by drowning in the Channel in years.

The survivors, an Iraqi and a Somali, have been discharged from hospital in Calais and will be questioned about what happened.

Amin, nicknamed Baran, had been trying to cross with a female relative.

She had been exchanging messages with her fiance on Snapchat just before the dinghy started to lose air and passengers began to try to get water out of it. He also said he had been following her position using GPS tracking.

Amin was from the town of Souran in the north-east of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the border with Turkey and Iran, according to the Times. Her family in Kurdistan are awaiting the return of her body for a funeral.

A relative said: “Her story is the same as everyone else – she was looking for a better life. One of her uncles was one of the people closest to me. He cared for us when my father was a political prisoner. But the family have had such a tragic life.”

The prime minister of Kurdistan, Masrour Barzani, said on Thursday that his thoughts are with families affected.

An emergency search was triggered just after 2pm on Wednesday when a fishing boat spotted several people in the sea off the coast of France.

A joint search-and-rescue operation by British and French authorities was launched, and eventually called off late on Wednesday.

Related: ‘He didn’t come back’: the grim camps from where refugees set off for UK

Police have said they believe the boat set out from the Dunkirk area east of Calais. The French authorities have arrested five suspected people traffickers in connection with the incident.

More than three times the number of people have crossed the Channel in 2021 than last year. The issue has caused tension both in the UK government, and between the UK and France.

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