France's Emmanuel Macron urged the British PM not to politicize the recent migrant boat tragedy in the English Channel
France's Emmanuel Macron urged the British PM not to politicize the recent migrant boat tragedy in the English Channel

All 27 migrants who drowned in last month’s boat disaster in the Channel have now been identified. The incident continues to cause diplomatic tensions between France and the UK.

The Paris prosecutor's office announced on Thursday that all 27 migrants who drowned in last month’s boat tragedy in the Channel have now been identified.

The migrants drowned when their small rubber dinghy deflated while they were trying to cross the Channel from France to the United Kingdom. After their boat capsized, only two men – an Iraqi Kurd and a Sudanese national – were rescued safely, according to the French interior ministry. One survivor stated that there had been a total of 33 people aboard the small vessel.

It was the deadliest accident on record involving a migrant boat in the Channel and caused major diplomatic tensions between London and Paris as the respective governments tried to shift the blame on one another.

Passengers allegedly telephoned both French and British emergency services, appealing for help when the vessel began sinking. An investigation has been launched by the French authorities to piece together a clearer picture of what happened.

Difficulties during identification

The 27 bodies were not all formally identified until Thursday, December 16. 

Most of the victims in the boat accident were Iraqi Kurds, along with four Afghan men, three Ethiopians, a Somali, a Vietnamese, an Egyptian and an Iranian Kurd who also lost their lives in the disaster. The victims were mostly adult men aged 19-26, but also included seven women aged 22-46, a 16-year-old and a seven-year-old.

In Lille, family members of four Afghans who died in the disaster bade a tearful farewell on Thursday. "I feel reassured that I saw his body, I feel reassured that he is here," Safi Naymatullah, the nephew of one of the victims, told Reuters.

He said he had repeatedly tried to ring his uncle, Muhammad Naeem Mayar, in the hours and days following news of the incident. "I was really sad when I called him on the phone and couldn't find him but I am so happy today that we were able to find his body at least," he said, noting that several of the bodies have not yet been recovered.

Authorities often have difficulties identifying dead migrants because they do not always carry official documents and their family members frequently have to travel from remote areas overseas to see the bodies.

Diplomatic tensions

The accident has also caused major diplomatic tensions between France and the United Kingdom with leaders trying to place blame on one another.

The UK government facing mounting criticism regarding its handling of Channel migrants. Within 48 hours of the disaster, French President Emmanuel Macron accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of being "not serious" in his approach to preventing Channel crossings.

France was irritated by Johnson's initial reaction, which was seen as deflecting blame onto France. Johnson then published a letter to Macron on his Twitter account in full, before the French leader had received it.

The French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin responded to the UK Prime Minister's tweet describing it as a "disappointment." Following Johnson's letter, Darmanin also told British Secretary of State Priti Patel that she was "no longer welcome" at multinational talks to discuss migration issues between France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the European Commission.

 

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