Channel crossing deaths: first victim identified as Kurdish migrant, 24, travelling to be with fiance in UK

Her cousin told how she was a ‘romantic’, ‘beautiful angel’ who had travelled for a better life but described the perilous travel as ‘a route of death’

Maryam pictured at what is believed to be the engagement party (Picture: Krmanj Ezzat Dargali/Facebook)Maryam pictured at what is believed to be the engagement party (Picture: Krmanj Ezzat Dargali/Facebook)
Maryam pictured at what is believed to be the engagement party (Picture: Krmanj Ezzat Dargali/Facebook)

Three days after 27 people lost their lives while making the journey from France to the UK in a small dinghy, the first victim has been named.

24-year-old Maryam ‘Baran’ Nuri Hamdamin, who boarded the vessel in hopes of being reunited with her fiance in the UK, was a Kurdish student from northern Iraq.

Her relative Krmanj Ezzat Dargali confirmed her identity to the BBC and The Times.

‘Beautiful angel’

In a touching tribute to his cousin, he shared a photo of what appeared to be her at her engagement party, and described her in a poem as a “beautiful angel” who was a “romantic”.

Her fiance, who has not been named, told the BBC he had no idea she was crossing the channel in that way, as she planned to surprise him on her arrival in Britain.

She is believed to have made the journey with a female relative, a photo published by the BBC shows she had been in Germany before travelling to France in early November.

Her fiance said Maryam was messaging him during the journey and alerted him when the flimsy dinghy she and 28 others were in started to deflate.

She reassured him they would be rescued, but then he lost her GPS signal he used to track her when, he believed, the vessel was in the “middle of the sea”.

‘Totally devastated’

Among the dead are 17 men, six other women, and three children. There were only two survivors, who both suffered hypothermia.

The vessel is thought to have been bought by people smugglers, who charge upwards of £3,000 per person.

Maryam’s fiance said when heard that a vessel had capsized in the Channel, he called the people traffickers but they could not reach anyone on the dinghy by phone.

Maryam’s family are said to be “totally devastated”, by her loss, her fiance added he is “ in a very bad state.”

‘Route of death’

Her relative Krmanj, who suggested in his Facebook post that Maryam was his first cousin once removed, told Sky News: “Her mother and father are totally devastated. The situation is just awful.

“She was a woman in the prime of her life. It’s a total tragedy and the whole family is in shock.”

He added: “I understand why so many people are leaving for a better life, but this is not the correct path. It’s the route of death.”

Her grieving father called the camp in Calais, a “slaughter house,” adding that the journey which hopeful migrants take to reach the UK was “a sin to put people through.”

Her body is now being prepared to be flown back to Kurdistan, her cousin Krmanj said he hoped the British and French governments would “accept us in a better way”.

Armed smugglers

In the Grand-Synthe refugee camp in Calais another hopeful refugee, Sanger Ahmed, 33, said two of his friends have not been in touch since telling him they too would be boarding the dinghy.

Shakar Ali, 25, and Harem Pirot, 23, from Iraq, told Mr Ahmed they were forced onto the “flimsy, overcrowded” vessel by armed smugglers.

Mr Ahmed said: “I have heard stories about smugglers with guns making people get on board if they try to back out at the last minute. They are brutal people.”

Like many of the victims of Wednesday’s tragedy in the channel, his two friends have yet to be identified and his fears have not yet been confirmed.

Four young men – Riaz Mohammed, 12, his relative Share Mohammed, 17, and two other boys Palowan, 16, and Shinai, 15 – were among those attempting to cross the Channel on the same day the dinghy capsized.

Their friends, who are unable to contact them, are worried that they also died at sea.

The French authorities have arrested five suspected traffickers in connection with the drownings.

A spokesman for President Emmanuel Macron’s government accused Boris Johnson of “double-speak” and said Johnson’s proposals to solve the migrant crisis, “doesn’t correspond at all” with discussions the two leaders had when they spoke on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister’s proposals include taking migrants who arrive in the UK back to France shortly after arriving on British shores.