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British authorities ‘refused to help’ the 27 people who drowned in the Channel despite boat being ‘5km into British waters’

One of the survivors of last week’s horrific mass drowning in the English Channel has claimed that British authorities refused to help them as their boat was sinking – despite their vessel reportedly being around 5km into British waters.

In an interview with Kurdish broadcaster, Rudaw, Mohammed Shekha – one of only two survivors from the horrific events of last Tuesday – told how the group made desperate pleas to both British and French authorities in an attempt to raise the alarm.

Describing how events unfolded, Shekha – who was visibly distressed throughout the interview – said:

“The right side of the boat was losing air. Some people were pumping air into it and others were bailing the water from the boat.

“Then after a bit, we called the French police and said, ‘help us, our pump stopped working.’

“Then [we] sent [our] location to the French police, but they said, ‘you’re in British waters'”

Shekha then detailed how they made a call to British authorities, but they simply told them to “call the French police”.

Shekha continued:

“Two people were calling – one was calling France and the other was calling Britain.

“The British police didn’t help us, and the French police said ‘you’re in British waters, we can’t come.’

“Then, as we were slowly drowning, the people lost hope and let go. Then the waves took us back to France.”


In addition, a relative of two of the victims – who was in direct contact with the group tracking their boat’s live location throughout the journey – told Rudaw that the boat was “five kilometers inside British waters” when the call to British authorities was made, adding:

“Forty-five minutes before they drowned, they called and said they were in British waters but could not move. They drowned in British waters and the waves took the bodies to French waters.”

However, British authorities have disputed the claims – with a spokesperson for the Home Office telling Rudaw that the claim that the boat was in British waters was “completely untrue”, adding:

“Officials here confirmed last night that the incident happened well inside French Territorial Waters, so they led on the rescue effort, but [we] deployed a helicopter in support of the search and rescue mission as soon as we were alerted.”

However, the British Coastguard have so far refused to give any details regarding the reported distress call made to them by the group as their boat was sinking – including coordinates or the live location as relayed to them by the group at the time of the incident.

Despite the Home Office’s rebuttal, Shekha was adamant – telling Rudaw that “Britain should have come on board and [rescued us] because we drowned in the [English] Channel”, adding:

“They didn’t help us or do anything for us.”

At least twenty seven people lost their lives in last Tuesday’s mass drowning in the English Channel – including those fleeing the authoritarian regimes of Iran and Egypt, a number of Kurdish refugees, others caught up in the civil war in Somalia, and some who were fleeing ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The dead include at least three young children, seven women – including one who was pregnant – and seventeen men.

Just one of those who lost their lives has since been formally identified – the body of Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, a 24-year old Kurdish woman from Northern Iraq, who was attempting to reach her fiance who already lives in Britain.

Evolve Analysis

There are currently no safe way for refugees to claim asylum in the UK – and it is only possible to make an asylum claim if you are currently in this country.

This lack of safe routes means that refugees who wish to claim asylum in Britain – many of whom have family members here or can already speak English – are pushed into the hands of people smugglers and undertaking the perilous journey across the Channel.

Priti Patel and the Conservative government routinely blame people smugglers for the problem.

However, if the government simply opened a safe and viable way for refugees to claim asylum in the UK without having to be in the country, it would almost entirely shut down the trade people smuggling across the Channel.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is currently lobbying the government on precisely this issue – and you can view their website, which contains even more facts proving just how illogical (and deeply dangerous) the government’s current stance is, here.

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