Seeking Justice for Channel Deaths
Seeking Justice for Channel Deaths
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On 24 November 2021 a dinghy carrying at least 34 people sank in the English Channel, with only two survivors. This is the biggest loss of life in the English Channel in over three decades. One of the survivors and the victims’ families believe this could have been avoided if help had been sent promptly, but instead the individuals were left to die, one by one, in the cold, dark sea. Although two UK Border Force assets were deployed the search and rescue operation raises many questions as to the adequacy, competence and urgency with which it was carried out. To date no one has been held accountable and calls for a prompt public inquiry have been met with silence.
We are a group of 16 claimants who are jointly making this appeal for crowdfunding. Our group includes one of the only two survivors from the tragedy, and 15 individuals speaking on behalf of our families. Our goal is to hold the UK government to account for what we believe were serious failures by the U.K. Coast Guard and anyone else involved in the search and rescue operation.
A formal investigation in progress in France has revealed shocking details of the calls between the victims on the boat the French Coast Guard. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) are conducting their investigation of the search and rescue operation and are due to report in summer 2023. It is important that the Claimants are able to raise queries and concerns throughout the investigation and at the time the report is published.
The Claimants believe that the only appropriate form of investigation is an independent public inquiry, which will scrutinise every record, every decision, and every piece of evidence available from the incident. Further to th Claimants' threat of legal action, the government has conceded that a further Article 2 ECHR compliant investigation must take place, but has not committed to the scope or format of such investigation. This prolonged delay is a concern for the preservation of evidence as well as ongoing risk to those who may cross the Channel in future.
Why are your donations needed?
The Claimants want to continue to build their evidence and participate actively in the process leading up to publication of the MAIB report, as the outcome will have a significant impact on the further inquiry. At this stage there is no Legal Aid available to cover the work needed. The Claimants are seeking crowd funding to cover, in the first instance, interpreters’ fees, costs of expert reports and travel expenses.Once those expenses have been covered funds will go toward the costs of fees for our legal team, which is currently working without any legal aid or other funding in place.
Every victim matters and every victim has their own, unique story to tell. We have chosen to share the stories of a few of them here:
Amongst those who died were a mother, Kazhal, with her three children: Hasti aged 7, her 16 year old brother, Mubin, and her 22 year old sister Hadiya. Kazhal was the last of the family to let go of the deflated dinghy, described by the survivor as having ‘lost her mind from grief’ after her three children perished in the sea. Fikeru, an Ethiopian father and husband left behind his wife and two young children. Fikeru was forced to flee Ethiopia after war broke out, only 10 days after his wife gave birth to the couple’s second child. He died, cold and alone, 1000s of miles from his family and his home. Twana, a teenager from Iraq who should have had his entire life ahead of him left Iraq full of optimism and determination, hoping that he would be able to join his sister already living in England. To date Twana’s body has not been found, and his family are unable to find closure. Mohamed, one of only two survivors was eventually rescued after more than 18 hours in the water. After four months in hospital Mohamed is now living in precarious circumstances in France, without legal status. Although the doctors described his survival in the sea as ‘a miracle’, Mohamed remains deeply traumatised from his experience. He has described how those on the boat were repeatedly calling the British and French coast guard, but no one came to their rescue: “People were not taken seriously even though they were pleading and asking for help. I heard people on the phone saying we were going to die, so the authorities would have known the situation was very serious.”
The legal team
The Claimants are represented by the Public Law Team at Duncan Lewis Solicitors which has an excellent track record of bringing complex judicial review claims to enforce the rights of their clients and which are of wider public importance. The Duncan Lewis legal team are Toufique Hossain, Maria Thomas, Rachel Pask, Rachael Saunders, Hanna Kit and Yasmin Adib.
Duncan Lewis have instructed expert counsel Chris Buttler KC at Matrix Chambers who is described in Chambers and Partner 2023 as a "a truly exceptional advocate, delivering outstanding work and outcomes for clients. He is a force of nature." Chris will have a team of excellent Matrix junior counsel to assist him.
Please email MariaT@duncanlewis.com if you require further information about the case.
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