A survivor of the Channel boat tragedy claimed on Sunday that migrants phoned both French and British police forces but their pleas for help were ignored – leaving them to drown.
Mohammed Ibrahim Zada, who was one of only two survivors, said the migrants had “fought death” for hours, clinging to the wreckage in the dark before succumbing as dawn broke.
Mr Zada told a Kurdish television channel on Sunday that 33 passengers had climbed into the rubber dinghy but it had started taking in water from almost the start of the journey, having departed from the French coast late on Tuesday night.
Bodies were found floating in the Channel, more than 12 hours later, a few miles from the coast in French waters, prompting a French fisherman to send out a mayday signal.
But Mr Zada, 21, who had a miraculous escape after being treated for hypothermia, said: “We called UK police, they didn’t help us. We called the French police and they said: ‘you are in UK territory’.”
In harrowing testimony, he told Rudaw TV after leaving hospital: “There were families and I remember a kid, three or four years old.
“We were holding each other’s hands. We were almost fine until dawn. Then most of them gave up their lives. The whole night nobody died. Until dawn when many of them let go of the remaining bit of the boat and gave up their lives.”
Smugglers threaten to kill Mr Zada
Mr Zada, a labourer, said he was trying to reach Britain so he could earn enough money to send it home for treatment for his sick sister.
He said his life was now in danger because of the evidence he can now give to police. “The smugglers are threatening me,” he said, telling him: “We will kill you, if we catch you.”
When the boat had first started leaking water, the migrants had seen a big ship pass but decided not to flag it down in the dark, still hopeful they could reach the UK.
Mr Zada, who is from a Kurdish region of Iran, wept as he identified on television a photograph of a family, who he confirmed had been on the boat with him.
The Rzgar family, from an autonomous Kuridsh region of Iraq, had given interviews only a week before the tragedy in which they spoke of their dream of starting a new life in Britain.
The youngest member of the family Hasta Rzgar was just seven years old.
Desperate to study at a British school
In an interview at a makeshift migrant camp in Dunkirk, her brother Mubin Rzgar, 16, said he was desperate to study in a British school.
Another sister Hadya, 22, was also on the boat and believed to have perished along with their mother Kazhal Hama Salih.
The siblings’ father is a policeman in their native Kurdistan, an autonomous region within Iraq, and decided not to accompany them on the journey because of his work.