Body found on Norwegian shore is Kurdish-Iranian baby who drowned in English Channel

Artin died alongside three family members when the boat they were in sank in October 2020. (Screenshot/Social Media)
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  • Artin was found on Jan. 1 but his body has only just been identified
  • Many Kurds flee Iran every year due to systemic repression, vast economic inequality

LONDON: Police in Norway have said a body found on the country’s coast earlier this year is that of a 15-month-old Kurdish-Iranian boy who died trying to cross the English Channel from France to the UK.

Artin died alongside three family members when the boat they were in sank in October 2020. Relatives have spoken of their grief and confusion in the months since they heard what had happened.

On Monday, Norwegian police said the body had been found on Jan. 1 but they had struggled to identify it.

“We didn’t have a missing baby reported in Norway, and no family had contacted the police,” Camilla Tjelle Waage, head of police investigations, told the BBC.

Police released an image of the clothing that Artin was wearing when he died. “The blue overall wasn’t a Norwegian brand either (and) that indicated the baby was not from Norway,” she said.

DNA profiling led to the identification of the body as Artin’s. He will be flown back to Iran to be buried with his family.

Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, and Anita, 9, also died when the boat sank.

Shortly after it sank, the BBC reported that it had seen text messages sent by Panahi, including one that acknowledged the danger of the Channel crossing but that “we have no choice.”

Another said: “I have a thousand sorrows in my heart, and now that I have left Iran I would like to forget my past.”

Thousands of Iranian-Kurdish refugees place their lives and that of their families in the hands of smugglers to make the perilous trip to Europe every year.

Iran’s Kurds, who number around 12 million and make up about 15 percent of the population, face systemic repression and vast economic disparity at home.

Rights groups, including Amnesty International, regularly present evidence that Kurdish journalists, activists and citizens face torture, forced disappearance and execution at the hands of the state.

They are also deprived of access to fair and open trials, and are coerced into “confessions” that are later used against them.

In the past decade, Britain has seen escalating numbers of asylum seekers and migrants attempting the perilous crossing from France — often in cheap and unsafe inflatable dinghies. Channel migration is becoming an increasingly salient issue in British politics.

The government has said to date this year, 3,500 people have successfully crossed the Channel to reach the UK, prompting calls by sections of the public, media and some politicians for a crackdown on the route.

The number of annual deaths has been steadily increasing. Around 300 people are confirmed to have died making the crossing since records began in 1999.