A body that was found on a Norwegian shore several months ago has been identified as that of a 15-month-old child named Artin, who died alongside his relatives as they tried to cross the Channel to start a new life in the UK last October, local police have said.
The body was found near Karmøy in south-west Norway on New Year’s Day – more than two months after the vessel carrying the Iranian Kurds Rasul Iran Nezhad, Shiva Mohammad Panahi and their three children sank.
Rescuers found Iran Nezhad drowned, while his wife and two of his children died shortly after being pulled from the water. Artin’s body was not immediately found and he was listed as missing.
“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 BBC News. “The blue overall wasn’t a Norwegian brand either [and] that indicated the baby was not from Norway.”
Norwegian police told the broadcaster: “Skilled professionals in the department of forensic sciences at Oslo University hospital managed to retrieve matching DNA profiles.”
His remaining family have reportedly been notified and his remains are to be flown back to Iran to be buried.
The family were trying to make it to Britain in a small fishing boat. It is believed they paid a smuggler at least €5,000 and were making the crossing with 23 other people in the overloaded vessel, having twice failed to enter the UK by train.
A French official said 19 people were found in the water, including Artin’s relatives, after the boat capsized. But the Iranian-Kurdish human rights organisation Hengaw said there had been 28 onboard, suggesting more people may still be unaccounted for.
Iran Nezhad’s brother Khalil said he had last heard from his relatives shortly before they attempted the crossing. He said they had crossed from Iran into Turkey during the summer of 2020, before proceeding through Europe to France.
Khalil Iran Nezhad said his brother had attempted to bring his family to the UK so he could find a better life for them. He had been working as a low-paid labourer while his wife was unemployed and had heard he could earn at least £100 a day and find somewhere to live in the UK.
In Calais, a friend of the family told the Guardian he had met them about a month before the tragedy and spoken to Panahi. He said: “Shiva and I were talking about the issues with going to England. I told her: ‘This is way too dangerous, you have children. Do you think they can survive in the water if, God forbid, something happens?’ And she said: ‘It’s OK, we will do it. Everyone is going there, it’s not a problem.’”