'Back to me in a coffin' - bodies of migrants drowned in Channel reach Iraq

At least 16 bodies of Iraqi Kurdish migrants who drowned in November when their dinghy deflated while they tried to cross the English Channel were returned on Sunday to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Published : 26 Dec 2021, 11:06 AM
Updated : 26 Dec 2021, 11:06 AM

The Nov. 24 disaster, in which 27 migrants died, was the worst on record involving migrants trying to cross the Channel to Britain from France.

The plane carrying the bodies landed on early Sunday in the airport of Erbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Ambulances then took the coffins to the home towns of those who died.

"The last time I heard my son's voice was when he got on board the boat. He said 'Don't worry Mum, I will reach England shortly.' Now he's back to me in a coffin," said Shukriya Bakir, whose son was one of those who drowned.

People react as they run towards ambulances carrying coffins of Iraqi Kurdish migrants, who drowned while trying to cross the channel between France and Britain, in the town of Rania, Sulaimaniyah province, Iraq, December 26, 2021. REUTERS

In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of people have slipped into the wealthy economies of Western Europe with the help of smugglers, fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty on epic journeys from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan and elsewhere. Few are welcomed.

Iraq is no longer at war since the defeat of Islamic State in 2017. But a lack of opportunities and basic services, as well as a political system most Iraqis say is corrupt and nepotistic, mean many people see little chance of a decent life at home.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher