By Ardee Napolitano
LILLE, France (Reuters) - Family members bade a tearful farewell on Thursday to four Afghans from among 27 migrants who died last month when their small rubber dinghy deflated in the Channel while heading to Britain from France.
The coffins were borne to the Al Imane Mosque in the northern French city of Lille, where around 100 people, many of them Afghans from around the region, gathered for the recital of the Islamic funeral prayer.
"I feel reassured that I saw his body, I feel reassured that he is here," said Safi Naymatullah, whose uncle was among those who died.
He said he had repeatedly tried to ring his uncle, Muhammad Naeem Mayar, in the hours and days after news of the sinking broke.
"I was really sad when I called him on the phone and couldn't find him but I am so happy today that we were able to find his body at least," he said, recalling that the bodies of many others who drowned have not been recovered.
After the ceremony, the four bodies were to be transported to Paris and then placed on board a flight on Friday for repatriation to Afghanistan, said Jan Kakar, head of a group which represents people of Afghan origin living in France.
The loss of the 27 lives on Nov. 24 sent shockwaves through Britain and France, whose leaders traded blame for the tragedy.
The worst disaster on record involving migrants in the narrow seaway separating the two countries, it highlighted the lack of solutions for the rising numbers of migrants risking their lives to make the dangerous crossing.
Despite the sinking and other similar tragedies, migrants continue to attempt the journey in the hope of building a new life in Britain.
In the early hours of this morning, two small dinghies holding around 40 people each pushed off from the northern French coast.
(Reporting by Ardee Napolitano; Writing by Layli Foroudi; Editing by Gareth Jones)