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Norway: Iranian-Kurdish boy identified as body found on coast

Fifteen-month-old Artin died along with four other family members in the English Channel in October
Photo released by the family of 15-month-old Artin (supplied)

Police in Norway have identified a body that washed up on the country's shores earlier this year as a 15-month-old Iranian-Kurdish boy, who drowned along with four family members while trying to cross the English Channel.

Artin and his family, who were originally from the city of Sardasht in western Iran, were attempting to cross to the UK from France when their boat sank in the Channel on 27 October 2020.

The 15-month-old died along with Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six.

Another 15 people were taken to hospital after the sinking and an investigation was opened in Dunkirk by the French public prosecutor.

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On Monday, police in Norway said Artin's body had been found on New Year's Day on the country's southwestern shore, near the municipality of Karmoy.

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

"The blue overall wasn't a Norwegian brand either [and] that indicated the baby was not from Norway."

The boy's body will now be flown back to Iran for burial.

Text messages seen by the BBC revealed Shiva Mohammad Panahi's trepidation about the voyage.

"If we want to go with a lorry we might need more money that we don't have," read one message

"I have a thousand sorrows in my heart and now that I have left Iran I would like to forget my past," read another.

Increasing numbers of migrants and refugees are attempting to make the dangerous 34km voyage across the sea from France to the UK, the vast majority from Iran and Iraq.

In 2019, some 1,900 people made the crossing. In 2020, that number had risen to over 5,000, according to the UK Home Office. In the first five months of 2021, more than 3,100 people had reached the English coast by small boat.

Many members of Iran's large Kurdish minority flee the country to escape political persecution or to seek better employment prospects and living standards.