News, Culture & Society

One-year-old who died alongside his family trying to cross the English Channel found dead in Norway

Police have identified the body of a baby found on the Norwegian coast as a missing 15-month-old Kurdish boy who drowned crossing the English Channel last year. 

The boy, named Artin, had been missing since October 27 when a sightseeing boat carrying his family – including father Rasoul and mother Shiva, both 35, nine-year-old sister Anita and brother Armin, six – capsized in the Channel.

His body was found on New Year’s Day in Karmoy, in southwest Norway, but was only identified today using DNA. Karmoy is some 900 miles from where the boat sank.

Police said Artin’s surviving relatives – from the city of Sardasht in western Iran – have been informed, and his body will be flown back for burial. 

It comes amid a fresh wave of migrant crossings from Europe to the UK, with some 4,500 making the journey so far this year and 1,000 in the last week alone – some of whom were carrying children with them. 

At least 89 were plucked out of the Channel on Sunday, Border Force officers said. 

Norwegian police have identified the body of a baby found on the coast as a missing 15-month-old who died in the English Channel last year. Artin has been missing since October 27, when four members of his family drowned while trying to reach the UK

On Monday, Norweigan police revealed the child’s body had been found on New Year’s Day in the southwest of the country near Karmoy

Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, with Artin

His wife, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35

Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, with Artin, (left) and his wife, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, (right). The family are pictured in a French migrant camp hours before attempting the perilous crossing 

Armin, six

Anita, nine

The bodies of Armin, six, and Anita, nine, were recovered from the Channel near Dunkirk by French coastguard last year

Mr Iran-Nejad (left) and his wife, Shiva, (right) with two rescue workers in a French migrant camp. The children are seen from left to right: Artin, Anita and Armin

Mr Iran-Nejad (left) and his wife, Shiva, (right) with two rescue workers in a French migrant camp. The children are seen from left to right: Artin, Anita and Armin 

The family had left Iran on August 7 last year having ‘sold everything’ in the hopes of making a better life for themselves in the UK. 

Their exact reasons for leaving Iran were not made clear by family members who spoke at the time, but Kurds are an oft-persecuted minority in Iran.

It is thought the family then made their way to Turkey, before catching a ferry to Italy and then riding in lorries into France where they arrived almost a month before the tragic sinking.

They then made three attempts to cross to the UK, where it is thought they had family. Two attempts via train failed, before their third doomed attempt on a boat.

Artin and his relatives had been crammed into the sightseeing boat with as many as 23 others – despite it only being designed to carry 18.

The family are thought to have been put in a cabin below deck, meaning they were trapped when the boat capsized on October 27 in rough seas.

They had reportedly paid smugglers £21,000 for the voyage. 

Fifteen other migrants also on the boat were taken to hospital and an investigation into the sinking was launched in France. Two more were listed as missing.

Artin’s devastated family previously told how they were left facing a £90,000 bill to bring the bodies home for burial, before the Iranian foreign ministry said it would step in to help. It is unclear when or if the bodies were repatriated. 

The family had been sleeping in a two-man tent in a makeshift camp in the Puythouck woods that was home to at least 200 immigrants, mainly from Iraq and Iran. A pair of shoes, a frying pan and a toy were left outside their tent.  

A series of text messages, thought to have been sent by Artin’s mother a few days before the family boarded the boat included one saying they ‘have no choice’ but to cross the Channel.

Another message said: ‘If we want to go with a lorry we might need more money that we don’t have,’ the BBC reported.

A third said: ‘I have a thousand sorrows in my heart and now that I have left Iran I would like to forget my past.’ 

Camp residents described hearing the family’s desperate cries in the days before they departed for Britain as they argued about whether to make the crossing. 

They told how Shiva agonised over whether they should take the three young children across the Channel on such a tiny boat. 

The family were sleeping in a two-man tent in a makeshift camp in the Puythouck woods that is home to at least 200 immigrants, mainly from Iraq and Iran. A pair of shoes, a frying pan and a toy were outside the tent. Pictured: The family's tent (on the right)

The family were sleeping in a two-man tent in a makeshift camp in the Puythouck woods that is home to at least 200 immigrants, mainly from Iraq and Iran. A pair of shoes, a frying pan and a toy were outside the tent. Pictured: The family’s tent (on the right) 

Ahmed, 30, who slept in the next-door tent, told the Mail: ‘The last night before he left, the father was fearing for the children’s lives. They were all desperate and crying. And they were worried about the money, too, as they had borrowed it so had to go. They were really desperate.’ 

The family’s perilous route from Iran: Smuggled by boat, truck and two failed crossings from France by train – as two migrants remain missing 

The Iran-Nejad family left West Azerbaijan Province in Iran on August 7 to travel to Turkey and on to Greece, where they were arrested.

They were deported back to Turkey after they were arrested, strip-searched and tear-gassed by Greek police, Iranian Kurds have revealed.

One migrant who travelled with them from Turkey back to mainland Europe claimed that they had ‘lost all their belongings’ and were given money to ‘buy new clothes’ after their deportation from Greece.

The migrant, who asked not to be identified, said he had taken pity on them when he met them in Turkey. ‘They had lost all their belongings,’ he told The Times. ‘I gave them some money to buy new clothes.’

The Iran-Nejads then sailed across the Aegean Sea a second time, but to Italy where they avoided arrest.

From Italy, the family crossed the border from Italy into France in lorries, stopping in several cities along the way, unnamed migrants said.

According to Mr Iran-Nejad’s brother Khalil Irannazhad, the patriarch had initially decided to stay in Germany or Switzerland before changing his mind and carrying on to France.

Family members claim that the Iran-Nejads then stayed on a camp near Calais before moving to Puythouck, but were evicted by police and moved to a nearby hotel after social services found them a room.

Sources told The Times that Mr Iran-Nejad was leant money to pay smuggling gangs to get them into Britain.

The family made three attempts to cross to the UK. The first two times, they wanted to cross by train, and the last time they wanted to cross by boat.

‘It was the third time that they had attempted to cross to the UK. Two times they wanted to cross via train and the last time they wanted to cross by boat,’ said Khalil.

‘We begged him to not try to cross by boat. He insisted on going.’

He added: ‘Rasoul was saying, ”I want to be in peace, I don’t want to fear for my life any more”. But his wife had second thoughts about going. Rasoul told her it was the only way as the [asylum] process is quicker in the UK. They could have stayed in Germany or France. 

‘They only wanted for their children to go to school in England and have a better life.’

Following the sinking, it was announced that the Iranian captain of the sunken boat was facing 10 years in jail for aggravated manslaughter  

The Iranian skipper of a migrant boat which capsized in the Channel killing a family of five faces 10 years in prison after being charged with ‘aggravated manslaughter’. 

The 37-year-old, who was not identified at the time, was arrested the day after the sinking and charged with  aiding illegal immigration, manslaughter, endangering human life and association with a criminal gang. 

Sebastien Piève, the Dunkirk prosecutor, told MailOnline: ‘A male person born in Iran 1983 appeared in court today before an examining magistrate.

‘Following interviews with survivors of Tuesday’s tragedy it emerged that this person was said to be driving the boat which capsized off Loon Plage.

‘The suspect was one of 15 people picked up following the capsizing of the boat. One of these people is still in hospital suffering from serious injuries .

‘The man described himself as a simple migrant attempting to reach the UK but investigators believe that he was involved in this senseless transport of migrants.

‘The migrants rescued and questioned also describe him as “being close”to the smugglers who organised the trip.‘ 

The man told the court he was simply one of the migrants attempting to cross the Channel in rough seas, but other survivors told police he had been captaining the vessel as part of a people smuggling operation.

The current status of his legal case in unclear. 

Fellow migrants described seeing a people smuggler forcing people to board the flimsy boat amid perilous conditions, including winds of up to 47mph. 

It is thought that at least 300 migrants, including 36 children, have perished trying to cross the Channel in the last 20 years.

However, that has not stopped people from attempting the dangerous journey, driven from their homes by war, famine and discrimination with promises of a better life overseas made by unscrupulous people-smugglers.

Just yesterday, Border Force officers said they had detained 89 migrants as they tried to reach the UK by sailing across the Channel in four boats.

It takes the number who have crossed so far this year to 4,521, with over 1,000 of those individuals making the journey in the last week alone. 

French authorities stopped a further 28 people in one boat from making the treacherous crossing, according to the Home Office. 

The busy week for Border Force began the Friday before last, May 28, when 336 migrants arrived in 19 boats – the highest daily figure recorded so far this year.

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Criminal gangs are putting profits before people’s lives through these dangerous and unnecessary crossings.

‘More than 4,000 people have been prevented from making the dangerous crossing so far this year and we are cracking down on the despicable criminal gangs behind people smuggling.

‘Inaction is not an option whilst people are dying. The Government is bringing legislation forward through our New Plan for Immigration which will break the business model of these heinous people smuggling networks and save lives.’ 

Iran has a long history of discrimination against ethnic Kurds, with thousands travelling to Europe each year with the help of people smugglers.

The discrimination is partly based on religion as the majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims while the majority of non-Kurdish Iranians are Shia.  

While equality of religions is guaranteed in Iranian law, in reality Sunni Muslims struggle to establish places of worship and schools for their children.

According to an Amnesty International report from 2008, Iranian Kurds have been subjected to discriminatory hiring policies that make it hard to get jobs, with their home regions under-funded and neglected, leading to ‘entrenched poverty’. 

Kordestan, the centre of the Kurdish community in Iran, is one of the country’s poorest provinces. Its economy relies heavily on farming and handicrafts.

A group of migrants are brought to shore in Dover, Kent, on Sunday amid a fresh wave of arrivals from the continent - some of whom are children

A group of migrants are brought to shore in Dover, Kent, on Sunday amid a fresh wave of arrivals from the continent – some of whom are children

Child migrant in Dover

Child migrants in Dover

Child migrants arrive in Dover last week amid a fresh wave of Channel crossings, with 1,000 making the perilous journey in the last week alone

UK border agents escort a group of migrants who were found crossing the Channel at the weekend, bringing young children with them

UK border agents escort a group of migrants who were found crossing the Channel at the weekend, bringing young children with them

Kurds have also been subjected to forced evictions and live in largely substandard housing, lacking proper sanitation and water supplies. Some Kurdish housing has not been sufficiently rebuilt since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, according to UN reports, when the Kurds were targeted by Saddam’s forces.

The town of Sardasht, where the migrant family who drowned hailed from, was among those targeted – struck by poison gas dropped from Iraqi fighter planes. At least 113 people died while thousands more were injured. 

Kurdish leaders say the victims were never given proper medical care, and some still suffer from debilitating lung conditions.

Kurdish children are often forbidden from speaking their native language in schools, and Iran bans mothers from giving their children certain Kurdish names. 

Literacy rates are also significantly lower for Kurdish students – particularly women – than in the Iranian population as a whole.

Those who do speak up about the plight of the Kurds face arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and the death penalty. 

According to the UN, there were around 1,800 Kurdish political prisoners being held in Iran in 2017. Charges against them ranged from eating during Ramadan, to cheering the results of a referendum on Kurdish independence in neighbouring Iraq.  

In a major incident in 2005, Iranian security forces shot and killed Kurdish opposition leader Shawan Qaderi and two other men in the city of Mahabad, the capital of the Kurdish region, tied their bodies to a jeep, and hauled them through the city.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk