The brother of a teenager who disappeared in the canal tragedy a year ago has said his “heart is breaking” as he continues to wait for answers from the authorities.
Zana Mamand Mohammad has traveled from Iraq to Paris to try to find out what happened to his younger brother, Twana, in the maritime disaster that claimed 31 lives.
Twana, 18, had left a Kurdish town in northern Iraq with aspirations of becoming a Manchester City footballer and spent 15 weeks traveling to France before attempting the dangerous crossing.
The group’s flimsy dinghy is said to have deflated and capsized, with only two survivors pulled from the water in what would be the worst loss of life in the canal for 30 years. Organizations supporting refugees and asylum seekers said yesterday that the British and French emergency services were wasting time “passing the buck” on who should respond to passengers’ desperate cries for help.
Zana told Metro.co.uk from Paris: ‘A year after Twana went missing, my heart is breaking as we wait for answers. I have traveled from Iraq to France in the hope that we can find out what happened, but I still have no news.
“Words alone cannot express my family’s sadness, it only gets worse with each passing day.
“Our hearts are in pain as we wait and hope that one day we will get some news. We were a very happy family, but our lives changed completely when Twana went missing.
‘Now we are in constant sadness; not a day goes by without mom and dad crying. Twana’s many friends are also heartbroken and don’t know how to cope without him.
“Any news will be at least a small consolation to lift our hearts.”
Twana had left the town of Ranya and traveled to France via Turkey after his father put up his home as collateral to pay people smugglers an estimated £20,000 after the journey ended.
He had hoped to join his elder sister, who was living happily in Britain.
The poor-quality dinghy is believed to have had a broken engine and deflated, leaving the 34 people on board treading water in the dark as they waited for help.
An account of how the family, including Twana’s sister in Sheffield, desperately waited for news in the early hours of November 24, 2022, has been compiled by Sky News’ Alistair Bunkall.
Calls to authorities on both sides of the Channel met with each side saying the other had to take responsibility. As they waited, passengers held hands to stay afloat and used their cell phones as beacons to show where they were. The tragedy claimed the lives of 31 people and an unborn baby, with only two survivors. Twana’s body is still missing.
His brother, 33, who has three children, told Metro.co.uk via a friend who acted as an interpreter that he has been in Paris for seven days trying to find answers about what happened to Twana.
The French government announced last week that it was holding an internal investigation into the disaster, with a police investigation already underway.
Not a day goes by without Twana’s parents mourning the loss of their son, a Tae Kwon Do black belt with a promising future.
“I want to find out who was responsible for this tragedy,” Zana said.
“Both from the French and to come to Britain to ask questions about how this could have happened.
“Twana had a bright future. He loved soccer, he played professionally, and he was the best in Tae Kwon Do in his town.
“He wanted to go to the UK and play for Manchester City, he wanted to be shown in matches on TV and make his mum proud.
“His bright future has been cut short and my family and other families need to find out why so this doesn’t happen again.”
Care4Calais, Stand Up To Racism and the TUC have issued a damning report on the government’s response, which is due to hold a vigil in Parliament Square tonight.
In a joint statement, the groups said: “Transcriptions of the emergency call logs made by people on the boat to the French authorities revealed that repeated calls for help were made to both UK and French emergency services, both of whom spent crucial hours sending the money. about which of them should save a stricken small boat … instead of sending out a crew to save the people on board.
“A year later, the victims’ families are still waiting for answers as to how they could have been so seriously failed by the authorities. British authorities are awaiting the outcome of an ongoing Marine Accident Investigation Branch before further investigations take place. The victims’ families are still waiting to be contacted by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.’
Harrowing transcripts of the emergency calls to the French and British emergency services have been released by Care4Calais. In one, a man is heard saying that he is among a group of people in a small rubber boat, asking “please! We need help, if you will’.
The call was made at 1:51 a.m. on November 24 and was followed by others asking for help, but it wasn’t until 1400 that the French coast guard arrived after a fisherman discovered a body just inside the country’s territorial waters, according to Care4Calais.
Claire Moseley, founder of the refugee crisis charity, said: ‘A year on, the tortured families of the victims are still waiting for answers. The level of callousness and apathy from the authorities is scandalous.
“But we will never let the lives lost on 24 November 2021 be forgotten. For the victims and their families, we come together at this evening’s vigil to remember the dead and demand justice.
“The families need answers now and we need to know what lessons should be learned from this tragedy before more people die.”
The anniversary comes at a time of heightened concern about the dangerous Channel crossings, with more than 40,000 people traveling to Britain so far this year, according to government figures.
The total is more than the 28,561 arrivals in the whole of 2021 and comes amid an outcry over people being housed in cramped and makeshift conditions at Manston’s short-term immigration facility in Dover.
The center is now empty after the government moved those held there to alternative accommodation.
On the frontline of the crisis, the RNLI has adopted new procedures to prepare for the prospect of a similar incident involving a large number of casualties in the water.
Care4Calais is among groups advocating for safe routes that would allow those fleeing the “worst terror in this world” to be given “efficient and compassionate” passage to the UK. The charity says this will break the grip of human traffickers who make money from people’s desperation.
A spokesperson for the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said: ‘This was a terrible accident in which many people lost their lives.
“On the anniversary of the accident, our thoughts go out to those who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
“While it may not be possible to fully understand exactly what happened at the time of the accident, it is important that we investigate whether the UK’s emergency response was appropriate on the night when it became clear that migrant boats may be in distress in UK waters.
“The purpose of our investigation is to improve safety and if lessons can be learned, and if deemed appropriate, we will make recommendations to address the issues identified. Our investigation is ongoing and we expect to publish it in early summer 2023.’
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