Migrant tragedy: Family urges France to help with £90k bill to bring bodies home

Relatives of an “extremely kind” Kurdish-Iranian family who died while trying to cross the English Channel are facing a bill of more than £90,000 to bring their bodies home.

Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi, both 35, were aboard an overcrowded migrant boat along with their children Anita, nine, and Armin, six, when it sank on Tuesday.

Their baby son Artin, just 15 months old, was also on board and has not been found.

A cousin of Mr Iran-Nejad, who asked not to be named, told the PA news agency that their family back in Iran are “devastated”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the deaths were “an ultimate tragedy” and one that “could have been avoided”.

Mr Iran-Nejad and his family were among up to 28 people put on board a boat designed for just six or seven by people smugglers.

None were given life jackets, Mr Iran-Nejad’s cousin sad.

They had sold their house before leaving Iran and paid £14,000 to get on to the boat, with a further £8,200 supposed to be due when they arrived safely in the UK.

Before setting off for Europe, the family had lived in a village near the Iranian Kurdish city of Sardasht, West Azerbaijan province, northwest of Iran.

Speaking to PA, a cousin of Mr Iran-Nejad told PA that their family have been in mourning the past two days.

He added: “It definitely was a shock, we are all devastated.

“The family were absolutely lovely, they were fun to be around, they were extremely kind (and) so were the kids.”

Mr Iran-Nejad was the eldest of five brothers who still live in Iran, along with his parents.

He was the first in the family to want to come to the UK, his cousin told PA.

The cousin added: “They lived a not very well-off life. They were always short of money.

“His only hope of coming to the UK was for a better future for the children.”

Now their family back in Iran are faced with a possible bill of more than £90,000 to bring their bodies home so they can be laid to rest.

“No-one’s been in touch with us about how or if they will be returned.”

Mr Iran-Nejad’s cousin issued a “plea for help” to the French government to assist with the cost of returning their bodies to Iran.

He also called on the UK and France to look at the overall situation to prevent other families experiencing the same loss.

An investigation into the cause of the sinking has been launched by the Dunkirk public prosecutor.

Speaking on Thursday, Ms Patel said the deaths were “an ultimate tragedy” and one that “could have been avoided”.

She added: “We are working with our counterparts in France, in fact I am working with the French interior minister and with the National Crime Agency and many others, to ensure that we go after the people traffickers and the people smugglers.”

However, Ms Patel declined to answer whether the Government would consider allowing migrants to claim UK asylum from Calais, seen by some as a way of removing the need to cross the Channel.

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