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France: Kurdish woman first identified victim of English Channel tragedy

Mariam Nouri Hamadameen, a 21-year-old student, was identified as a victim in the tragedy that left dozens of people dead
Hamadameen attempted the journey to the UK in order to join her fiance
Hamadameen attempted the journey to the UK to join her fiance, who is already living in Britain (Twitter)

The first victim from Wednesday's tragedy in the English Channel has been identified as Mariam Nouri Hamadameen, a young Kurdish woman from northern Iraq, according to Sky News.

Hamadameen, 21, first travelled from Iraq to Germany, then to France, and attempted the journey to the UK in order to join her fiance, who is already living in Britain.

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"Her mother and father are totally devastated," her cousin, Krmanj Ezzat, told Sky News.

"The situation is just awful. She was a woman in the prime of her life. It's a total tragedy and the whole family are in shock," Ezzat said, speaking from northern Iraq.

The incident on Wednesday, in which 31 people died after their inflatable dinghy sank outside France's northern port of Calais, is the single worst disaster in recent years to happen in the Channel, an intensively used maritime migration route between France and England.

Ezzat said that he understood why people would want to attempt the journey to the UK, however, advised other young Kurdish individuals to avoid the Channel, which he called "the route of death".

"Please don't take this route, it's not worth it," he told the news site.

"Anyone who wants to leave their home and travel to Europe has their own reasons and hopes, so please just help them in a better way and not force them to take this route of death," Ezzat added, in a message to UK and French authorities.

UK-France tensions

The tragedy has sparked a diplomatic row between France and the UK over the issue of people using the migration route.

The two countries have said they share the same goal to curb illegal migration, but have been at odds in how to achieve results.

On Thursday night, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a letter on Twitter calling for joint border patrols, and also called on France to take back migrants who succeeded in making it across the Channel.

French President Emmanuel Macron responded angrily to the letter, saying during a news conference on Friday that "we do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public".

The letter's call for border patrols conducted by British and French forces, or by private contractors, along the French coast has been seen by Paris as a concern for the country's sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Johnson's call for having people sent back to France would be difficult, given that Britain has left the European Union, and there is no longer an established legal mechanism for transferring people from the UK back to mainland Europe.

Earlier on Friday, France announced that UK Home Secretary Priti Patel was no longer invited to talks taking place this weekend, where France and several other European countries will discuss efforts to combat illegal migration and human trafficking in the region.

People currently in France are able to apply for UK asylum only if they are physically in Britain. Therefore, many attempt the deadly journey with dangerously strong currents in flimsy boats.

According to the French authorities, 31,500 people have attempted the crossing to Britain since the start of the year, with 7,800 people rescued at sea. The rate of crossings has doubled since August.

The UK Home Office has said that more than 25,000 people have arrived illegally so far this year, already triple the total figure recorded in 2020.