A survivor of the Channel crossing tragedy last night claimed authorities on both sides of the Channel refused to rescue the migrants as their boat was sinking.
Mohammed Shekha, 21, detailed a shocking series of desperate calls to French and British authorities and claimed both denied responsibility for the rescue.
At least 27 people drowned as they headed for the UK last Wednesday.
Last night, Mr Shekha, one of only two survivors, said the boat’s occupants held each other’s hands in the water before succumbing to the icy sea.
In an interview with Rudaw, the Kurdish state broadcaster, he said 33 people went to the shore near Dunkirk at 8pm on Tuesday.
He said: ‘We started moving after half an hour. Everything was perfect until early in the morning. It was still dark and water was coming into the small boat from the back. So a group of us tried to empty the water from the boat. That’s when we saw a big ship.’
The young shepherd, whose family live in northern Iraq, said some migrants wanted to swim to the ship.
‘Some of us said, “let’s go to the ship” and the others rejected it and said “no, we have to reach Britain”. Then the ship disappeared and the right side of the boat was losing air.’
At that point, a 16-year-old Iraqi boy called Mubin Hussein, who was on board with his mother and two sisters, made desperate phone calls for help.
Mr Shekha said: ‘We then called French police and they told us to send a live location. So we sent them the location, but they said “you are in British territory, we cannot do anything”. We then called the British, but they said “no, call the French”.
Mubin was on board with his mother Kazhal Ahmed, 45, and two sisters Haida, 22, and Hasti, seven. They are all feared dead.
After the frantic calls to authorities, the boat lost most of its air and stopped moving before the current pushed it back towards France.
Mr Shekha said: ‘That’s when people started falling into the water. So to rescue them we were all holding each other’s hands, all of us, the 33. This continued for a few hours until it became day.
‘The sun was out, but we couldn’t hold on any longer. The people just stopped holding hands and they all went into the water. They died.’
The death toll is currently 27, but it is feared others are missing.
Mr Shekha recounted his heartbreak at not being able to save a friend.
‘There was a guy from Ranyia [in Iraqi Kurdistan]. We promised each other to stay together until the last moment. I was holding his hand but he couldn’t make it. He asked me to stop holding his hand. I said no, but he insisted. He said, “I’m going to go in front of you, just don’t hold my hand.” I stopped holding his hand and then I couldn’t see him again. He died.’
Mr Shekha, who was subdued during the interview, which was conducted from an undisclosed location, expressed his anger that authorities failed to rescue those onboard, saying: ‘We died there and they didn’t come to help us.’
The young Kurd was finally rescued by the French coastguard after fishermen raised the alarm.
Mr Shekha claimed ruthless human traffickers now wanted to kill him, saying: ‘My life is under threat because the smugglers say, “if we catch you, we will kill you. We will not let you live”.’
Mr Shekha, whose family moved to Iraq from Iran a decade ago, said he needed to raise $60,000 [£45,000] to pay for an operation for his younger sister, Fatima.
Asked whether he still wanted to go to Britain, he said: ‘I will do whatever it takes for my sister.
‘I hope Britain will bring me to their country so that I can raise the money and then I will go back to my parents and my family.
‘Because of the threats, we need to stay in a safe place and we are waiting for something to be done for us to protect us.’
Mr Shekha said he had travelled to France through Germany, via Belarus and Poland, where he stayed in the forest on the border between the countries for around a week.
He is one of only two survivors of the tragedy, the other a Somalian named locally as Omer. Both were pulled from the water suffering from hypothermia and exhaustion.
The majority of those on the boat were Kurdish, but Mr Shekha said there were also four or five from Somalia, another four from Iranian Kurdistan, two Egyptians and one person from Vietnam.
In the heartbreaking 20-minute interview, the Kurdish reporter showed Mr Shekha pictures of other suspected victims, including Mubin and his family.
Asked whether the pictured family were on board, Mr Shekha immediately said, “yes, they were on board” and started to cry.
The children’s father, Rizgar Hussein, is a policeman who remained in the family’s hometown of Darbandikhan, in Iraq. The mother and their children left four months ago in search of a better life.
Mr Hussein, speaking to local media, said: ‘I got a call from my daughter at 10’oclock Iraqi time. She said, “we have been on board for five minutes”. It was the last time we spoke. I haven’t been able to contact them since.
‘If this incident hadn’t happened I wouldn’t mind not hearing from them for a month. But now that this incident happened, it’s very hard for me.’
All of his children were in school, and his youngest Hasti was studying at a primary school. Their father said his children had promised to resume their studies upon arriving in Europe.
He described his family as ‘normal people’, adding: ‘They were not happy here. They wanted a good life. And every parent wants a good life for his children. That’s what I wanted.’
The family arrived in Turkey with just $5,000 dollars, which meant they were forced to sell their house in Iraq for $30,000.
They used the proceeds to pay the smugglers, Mr Hussein said.
French coastguard officials said they were unable to comment last night, citing an ongoing investigation. Border Force was approached for comment.