French and British emergency services passed responsibility on to each other as the worst migrant drowning in English Channel history unfolded, a new report has claimed.
On 24 November 2021, a rubber dinghy carrying 34 migrants sank in the English Channel, killing 31 people and an unborn baby, despite repeatedly desperate calls to coastguard services on both sides of the Channel.
A preliminary investigation, carried out by a law firm on behalf of some of the relatives, has uncovered communications between the British and French emergency services which suggests neither side took responsibility for the unfolding disaster.
The report, seen by Sky News, draws on evidence from the two survivors, phone calls, text messages and emails.
It claims that passengers first called the French and English rescue services around 2am, and then continued for almost two hours, begging them to intervene.
"A few minutes after this first call, the French rescue services again asked for the vessel's position," the French report says.
"The position of the vessel was then in English waters. The French rescue team then transmitted the position to the English rescue team, informing them it was their responsibility to assist the boat.
"The English rescue team tried to call one of the numbers given to them by the Cross Gris Nez (French coastguard) but the tone of the call indicated that the vessel was in French waters. They therefore considered that the obligation to provide assistance fell to the Cross Gris Nez."
Many of the findings corroborate a Sky News investigation published in December 2021.
One of those onboard the boat that night was 18-year-old Twana Mamand Mohammad, who had left his home in the mountains of northern Iraq three months earlier to chase his dream of playing football in England.
We first met his older brother Zana, a policeman, days after he found out Twana had drowned. In the months that have passed, Zana has been helping lawyers with the investigation.
"All the information indicates that they waited for help for over six to seven hours," Zana told us when we met again at his home near the town of Ranya in Kurdish-controlled Iraq.
"Even if there was a very urgent matter and if there was a heavy load on the coastguards, they surely could have still gone to their aid in those few hours."
'France and Britain are responsible too'
Twana is one of three men whose bodies are yet to be found, making it harder for Zana and other families to mourn.
"Each one [France, UK, and the smugglers] get their share of blame," he believes.
"The smugglers are negligent in providing the necessary high-quality tools and materials for the trip.
"The coastguards or the emergency services of both countries were negligent in not going to their help, as they [migrants] had reached out to them and had informed them of their situation. They did tell them that they needed help.
"To me, the smugglers, France, and Britain get their own share of the crime, but the extent of who gets the larger and the smaller share will be decided by the court.
"The biggest criminals are the smugglers, the primary perpetrators are smugglers.
"But it is also true that the boat was in the waters for six hours, and they called Britain and France 80 times. France and Britain are both responsible too."
Responding to the legal investigation and our report, a spokesperson for the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "It is not appropriate for us to comment on the specifics of any legal actions.
"It would also not be appropriate to comment ahead of the outcomes of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigation.
"Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragic events of November last year.
"On 24 November, Her Majesty's Coastguard received over 90 alerts from the English Channel area, including 999 emergency calls. Every call was answered, assessed and acted upon, including the deployment of search and rescue resources where appropriate.
"We always have and always will respond to anyone in distress, as we did that day."
Sky News also asked the French Gris Nez for comment, but received no reply.