Bodies of 16 Kurds who drowned in English Channel repatriated to Iraq

Bodies of 16 Kurds who drowned in English Channel repatriated to Iraq
2 min read
27 December, 2021
The bodies of 16 Iraqi Kurdish migrants who drowned last month as they attempted to cross the English Channel were repatriated to northern Iraq.
A Kurdish man mourns inside an ambulance carrying the remains of one of the 16 repatriated Kurds [Getty]

The bodies of 16 Iraqi Kurdish migrants who drowned last month as they attempted to cross the English Channel were repatriated to northern Iraq on Sunday.

27 migrants died when an inflatable dinghy carrying them capsized off the coast of northern France on November 24. It was the deadliest disaster involving migrants trying to cross the perilous passage to Britain from France.

The incident sparked a political crisis, with Britain and France accusing each other of not doing enough to deter people from crossing the English Channel.

On Sunday, an aeroplane carrying the bodies of the tragedy’s Kurdish victims landed at the international airport in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the airport late on Saturday night to receive the deceased. Relatives grieved as the caskets were transported by ambulance to their hometowns across the region for burial.

Among the bodies returned Sunday was that of 24-year-old Maryam Nuri, called Baran by her friends and family. She perished during the ill-fated, illicit voyage across the English Channel with hopes of reuniting with her fiancé in Britain.

Shukrya Bakir, a devastated mother who was carrying a photograph of her deceased son, told local news reporters: “the last time I heard my son’s voice was when he got on the boat. He said ‘Don’t worry Mum, I will reach England shortly’. Now he’s back to me in a coffin”.

A disproportionate number of migrants from the Middle East attempting to reach Europe lately have been people from Iraq’s Kurdish region. 

Although northern Iraq is more prosperous than the rest of the conflict-scarred country, growing unemployment and frustration over corruption is forcing many to consider the risky journey.

Agencies contributed to this report.