LONDON: The father of an Iraqi Kurdish woman who drowned attempting to cross the English Channel has called for the “mafia” people traffickers responsible to be stopped, amid protests in London demanding safer passage for people attempting to reach the UK.
Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, 24, was among 27 people who died on Wednesday. She had been trying to reach her fiance who was already in the UK.
Speaking from Soran in Iraqi Kurdistan, Maryam’s father, Nuri Mohammed Mohammed Amin, called the people smugglers “butchers,” saying the disaster was a tragedy “not only for me but for the whole of Kurdistan and the world.”
He added: “I ask the French government to tighten their borders and stop those butchers. They are not smugglers, they are mafias. This is my only request.
“Those boats that they are using are not made for that purpose. They treat those poor people like animals. Where were her human rights?
“It is the role of the French government to have a strict procedure to stop those butchers to avoid further tragedies, and I hope our people stop even thinking about migrating using similar ways,” he said.
Maryam’s journey to join her fiance, which saw her travel to France via Turkey, Italy and Germany, was meant to be a surprise. Her cousin, Krmanj Ezzat Dargali, told UK radio station LBC that she had been “glowing with hope” to start a new life in the UK.
About 150 people gathered outside Downing Street in London on Saturday to protest the tragedy, which it is thought could have been caused when the dinghy being used — meant to carry 10 people at most — collided with another vessel, possibly a container ship.
Several protesters held banners calling for “safe passage now” for migrants, with others stating “migrants and refugees welcome here,” adding that politicians had blood on their hands.
The protest was in part a response to the proposed nationalities and borders bill, which will include new powers to deport people with no right to remain in the UK.
Lara Bishop, a volunteer for the asylum-seeker support charity Care4Calais said: “No one should have to die on our border. We are a first-world nation.
“We are the sixth biggest economy in the world but we only take 1 percent of refugees and we make it so difficult for people to cross and it’s not OK for people to be dying in the Channel.
“I think the British and the French governments need to remember humanity. At the moment they’re using them as political pawns — throwing them between themselves — but these are humans.”
So far about 25,000 people are thought to have crossed the English Channel via dinghies from Northern France this year, which has led to tensions between London and Paris.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned in a letter that more migrants would die unless France returned to talks over a plan to reduce the number of boats attempting the crossing, which led to an angry response from French President Emmanuel Macron after the letter was posted on social media platform Twitter.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel was subsequently disinvited from talks with her EU counterparts this weekend aimed at finding a joint solution.