A 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq has become the first victim of this week’s mass drowning in the English Channel to be identified.
Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin was one of 27 people who died while trying to cross into Britain on Wednesday.
Her fiancé, who lives in the UK, told the BBC that she was texting him when the group’s boat began to deflate.
She tried to assure him that they would be rescued.
But help came too late, and she, 17 men, six other women, one of whom was pregnant, and three children died after her inflatable boat sank in the sea off the northern coast of France.
There were only two survivors: an Iraqi and a Somali. The disaster marked the greatest loss of life by drowning in the English Channel in many years.
Her fiancé said that Maryam, nicknamed Baran, had been on the boat with a relative.
She did not know in advance about the attempt to cross the English Channel and she said that Maryam’s arrival in the UK was supposed to be a surprise.
She was messaging each other on Snapchat just before the boat started to lose air, she said. Maryam told him that the boat was deflating and that they were trying to get the water out of it.
She said that she had been trying to reassure him in her last message and give him hope that authorities were on their way to rescue them.
Reports from Calais say the two survivors of Wednesday’s sinking were released from the hospital and should be questioned about how many people were on the ship.
Maryam’s uncle confirmed to the BBC that she was one of the people who drowned in the English Channel.
He said her family heard the news from two people who were with her, and the family was waiting for her body to be transferred back to Iraq.
Maryam’s family said that she had tried to get to the UK legally twice and that she had been to the British embassy, but the process was “delayed”, forcing her to take the route she took.
Nuri Hamadamin, Maryam’s father, told the BBC: “The whole world talks about Europe as a quiet place, which is nice, is that what calm means? Around 30 people die in the middle of the sea?”
“It is a sin to put people through this.”
‘A very big heart’
On Friday night, her father, family and friends gathered at her home in northern Iraq to share her grief and remember her.
Maryam’s best friend, Imann Hassan, said that her friend was “very humble” and she had “a big heart.”
“When she left Kurdistan she was very happy, she couldn’t believe that she was going to meet her husband,” Hassan told the BBC on Friday night.
“At her engagement party she would tell me, ‘I’ll buy a house and live near you … we’re going to live together.’
Ms. Hassan said that she wanted to send a message to the world “that no one deserves to die like this.”
“She tried to live a better life, she chose the UK, but she died.”