Sudanese migrant who drowned in Channel 'was 28-year-old man'

20 August 2020, 19:06

The Sudanese migrant who tragically drowned had previously been reported as being 16
The Sudanese migrant who tragically drowned had previously been reported as being 16. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Sudanese migrant who drowned while attempting to cross the English Channel has been named as 28-year-old Abdulfatah Hamdallah, according to reports.

A French official confirmed the identity of the victim to The Independent, the newspaper has reported, while an investigation into his death continues.

Mr Hamdallah, originally from Sudan and carrying documents giving his age as 28 years old, died when the tiny dinghy he was travelling in capsized. However, the validity of the papers is currently unclear.

His friend who survived the perilous trip, who according to Boulogne-sur-Mer's deputy public prosecutor Philippe Sabatier is a teenager, had told French authorities the victim was 16.

The pair had been living in the Calais "Jungle" camp for two months before their tragic trip across the English Channel, Mr Sabatier stated.

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The prosecutor said: “I don’t know if he had applied for asylum with British authorities, but he appears to have done so with the French authorities.”

It is understood the victim had not lodged an asylum claim or been referred for resettlement in the UK, according to The Independent.

The pair stole an inflatable boat from a shop in a northern French commune before taking shovels from a nearby chalet to use as oars. The friend told officials one of these shovels punctured the vessel, causing it to sink, according to Mr Sabatier.

Mr Hamdallah is then thought to have died just a few minutes after entering the water. His body was discovered at a beach in Sangatte, near Calais, on Wednesday morning.

His friend survived with minor injuries and hypothermia. He alerted authorities shortly after 1am on Wednesday upon reaching the shore.

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“[He said] that they capsized and his companion must still be in the water,” said a statement from the maritime prefecture for the Channel.

“He also warned that his companion could not swim.”

Despite a sea search operation being deployed, a body was not found until it washed up on the beach.

Home Secretary Priti Patel had blamed "abhorrent criminal gangs" for the individual's death, however Mr Sabatier appeared to contradict this by suggesting the duo had acted alone and had no known links with a smuggling network.

Meanwhile, a French politician blamed the death on the UK Government on Wednesday, saying the inability to claim asylum in the UK without being physically present in the country "causes these tragedies".