Wednesday, January 19

In Iraqi Kurdistan, we mourn a victim of the sinking of the Channel

“She wanted a better life”: in Iraqi Kurdistan, hundreds of Maryam Nuri Hama Amin’s relatives gathered at her home to offer their condolences after hearing the news of her death during the sinking in the English Channel.

“I did not know that she was going to go illegally,” says her septuagenarian father, Nouri Hama Amin, who receives visitors in front of their house in Soran, 130 kilometers from the regional capital Erbil.

Dozens of men, often dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes with baggy trousers, sit silently on plastic chairs after saying a prayer upon their arrival. As tradition dictates, they are only served water.

Under a tent, women welcome the visitors, some of them seated on the floor on a large carpet. The victim’s mother, devastated, refuses to speak to the media.

Only twenty years old, Maryam, “Baran” for close friends, that is to say “rain” in Kurdish, would be one of the victims of the shipwreck on Wednesday in the English Channel.

With 27 dead, it is the deadliest migratory tragedy in the sector, since the increase in Channel crossings in 2018.

The young girl, who had left school after college, hoped to join her fiancé, Karzan, who had settled in Britain.

He was on the phone with her at the time of the tragedy. He was the one who called the family to tell them the sad news, Baran’s cousin Kafan Omar told AFP.

Shortly before she boarded, “I spoke to her, she was very happy, she was relaxed”, says the father. “She was in a hotel in France, we spoke until eight in the morning.”

After the sinking, the corpses were recovered and transferred to a morgue in France. Officially, nothing has filtered out on their identities and nationalities.

The young girl’s room is tidy as if she had just left it. Above the bed, two photos of lovers during their engagement.

In front of the show, the young woman appears dressed in a traditional kaftan decorated with embroidery, with a tiara over her elaborate hairstyle.

– “Do not emigrate” –

On her bed in the bedroom, placed on a turquoise quilt, a bouquet of white roses and a “Happy birthday Baran” balloon.

“We have no information on the smugglers. Their promises turned out to be lies,” laments the father.

“She wanted a better life in Britain. Unfortunately, she ended up in the sea.”

Cousin Kafan Omar explains that the young girl had been gone for almost a month. “She got a work visa and went to Italy, then France,” he adds.

“Before, we had tried many times to send her to Britain to join her fiancĂ©, without success,” he adds.

“I call on young people not to emigrate and to endure the difficulties here, rather than sacrifice their lives to arrive in Europe”, pleads Nouri Hamo Amin.

Since the summer, thousands of people, including many Iraqi Kurds, have been stranded on the border between Belarus and Poland.

To leave, they very often got into debt and spent all their savings. They want to join Western Europe where they hope to be able to benefit from the welfare state.

Kermaj Ezzat, a close relative of the family, understands these young people who are leaving mainly because of the “instability” of the region and denounces the policies of the Europeans.

“These countries have closed their borders to young people who dream of a better future.”

In London, some 150 people demonstrated outside Downing Street on Saturday to condemn Britain’s asylum policy. Calling on the Minister of the Interior, a sign asks: “Priti Patel, how do you sleep at night?”

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