French authorities have formally identified 26 fuori da 27 persone who drowned last month in a Channel dinghy incident, with most of them being Kurds from Iraq.
A statement from the Paris prosecutor said that there were 17 men among the deceased aged 19-26, seven women aged 22-46, as well as a 16-year-old teenager and a child aged seven.
Sixteen of the victims were Kurds from Iraq, four were Afghan men. There were also three Ethiopians, a Somalian woman, an Iranian and an Egyptian man.
Authorities often have difficulties identifying dead asylum seekers because they do not carry official documents and their family members frequently have to travel from remote areas overseas to see the bodies.
When news of the disaster broke, families rushed to the coroner’s office in Lille, northern Francia to see if their loved ones were among the victims.
One of the dead was Hussein, a 24-year-old Afghan who had only arrived a few days earlier at the Dunkirk home of his 18-year-old cousin, Amanullah Omakhil.
The two were very close, having taken the journey into exile together in 2016. When Hussein said he was going to take his chances on the crossing, said Amanullah, he did not try to talk him out of it.
“It was his choice. He was older than me, I couldn’t tell him ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that’,” he told AFP.
French investigators are still trying to establish a clearer picture of what happened during the disaster.
They are investigating reports the passengers had telephoned both French and British emergency services, appealing for help when the vessel began sinking, as one survivor told the Kurdish Iraqi channel Rudaw.
The accident was the most deadly involving a migrant boat in the Channel and cast a spotlight on the increasing number of desperate people seeking to cross the narrow waterway between France and England.
It also caused major diplomatic tensions between London and Paris.
Entro 48 hours of the accident, French President Emmanuel Macron accused British prime minister Boris Johnson of being “not serious” in his approach to stopping the crossings.
France was irked by Johnson’s initial reaction, which was seen as deflecting blame on to France, and then by his decision to write a letter to Macron which he published in full on his Twitter account before the French leader had received it.