Kurdish-Iranian family who died in Channel tragedy named, 15-month-old toddler still missing

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson

A family who died in the English Channel after the boat they were travelling in capsized have been named while their 15-month-old son, also presumed dead, is still missing.

Parents Rasoul Iran-Nejad and Shiva Mohammad Panahi, both 35, died with their children Anita, nine, and Armin, six as they attempted to cross the Channel on Tuesday.

The couple's third child, 15-month-old Artin, is also believed to be dead but human rights groups say the baby's body has not been recovered by rescuers.

Artin is missing, presumed dead, after his family drowned in a Channel crossing attempt.

The family were from a village near the Iranian-Kurdish city of Sardasht, West Azerbaijan province, northwest of Iran but left the country due to economic hardship.

They crossed the Iranian border into Turkey earlier last summer, then proceeded to Greece, Italy, and France.

The family are believed to have attempted to move from France to the UK on a train twice but both attempts failed. They then decided to reach the UK by sea, the PA news agency understands.

The family had set off for the UK in a boat carrying as many as 28 people - 10 more than it was designed to carry, it is believed.

Rescuers worked late into the night on Tuesday to find survivors and more than a dozen people were taken to hospital, but the operation was not resumed on Wednesday.

A rescue operation was launched after the boat capsized off the coast of Dunkirk. Credit: AP

French authorities said on Wednesday afternoon there was no hope of recovering any more survivors.

The alarm was raised on Tuesday by a yacht which notified search and rescue.

French patrol boats and a helicopter from the Belgian air force were dispatched as well as a fishing boat.

It is believed to be the single biggest loss of life during the current UK migrant crisis, and brings the total number of deaths since 2018 to 10.

Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, said: "This beautiful Kurdish-Iranian family deserved our compassion and our support, not to meet their deaths on the UK’s doorstep.

"The way to honour their memory is to ensure that no other family in their circumstances feels forced to make the same crossing."

Artin and his family attempted to move from France to the UK on a train twice but both attempts failed.

More than 7,400 migrants have arrived in the UK after making the crossing so far this year, according to PA analysis.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who said she was “saddened” to learn of the deaths, previously pledged to make the route across the Channel “unviable”.

Immigration minister Chris Philp promised a “new, comprehensive action plan” to stem the latest surge of crossings when he met French officials two months ago alongside the newly appointed clandestine channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney.

At the time, Mr Philp said everyone was working “at pace” to tackle the problem and insisted both countries were committed to the cause.

Home Secretary Priti Patel Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Meanwhile, military planes started to survey the Channel for emerging crossing attempts after the Home Office asked the Ministry of Defence for help.

But critics branded this a political move in a bid to show action, claiming the measure would not change anything.

The efforts followed repeated previous meetings between French and British ministers and officials on the subject in recent years.

In November, the Foreign Affairs Committee warned the Government its own policies meant migrants were resorting to more dangerous routes and the number of crossings would rise.

Ms Patel was a member of the committee at the time of its inquiry, which recommended expanding the legal routes available to asylum seekers.