Help a grieving Iraqi family to bring their son home

Help a grieving Iraqi family to bring their son home

Written by: Arun Kundnani

The impoverished parents of an Iraqi man, who died trying to enter Britain in 2001, have appealed to the British public to help raise £3,100 – the cost of sending the body from a Kent mortuary, where it has been left for the last three years, to Iraq for burial.

(ADDENDUM, 8 SEPT 2004: The full amount needed to return Omid Jamil Ali’s body to Iraq for burial has now been raised and arrangements for the funeral are being made. CARF would like to thank all those who helped raise the money, in particular Positive Action in Housing and Al Meezan.)

Jamal Ali Said and his wife Galawza live in the village of Sharbarza, northern Iraq. In the late 1990s, they were desperate. Up till then, they had survived the turmoil and violence inflicted on Iraqi Kurdistan, eking out a living as farmers. But the double impact of economic sanctions imposed by the West and Saddam Hussein’s economic siege of Kurdish areas had destroyed them. The only option left was to sell their land to pay for their eldest son to be sent to work in Europe.

Omid Jamil Ali, then aged 21, left his village in August 2001, carrying with him his family’s hopes for future survival. He crossed first into Iran and then travelled through Turkey. Two weeks later he had reached Italy. He then made his way to Calais, hoping to enter the UK (without permission) where he knew there was demand for cheap labour.

But Omid never saw Britain. He leapt on to a moving train from a bridge at the French end of the Channel Tunnel. In the fall he injured himself severely. The train reportedly did not stop till it arrived in England. Only then was Omid retrieved and taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Omid joined the long list of those who have died making dangerous attempts, in the present restrictive climate, to enter the UK. An inquest verdict of ‘accidental death’ was recorded. But since then, Omid’s body has remained frozen in a Kent mortuary. Having invested all their possessions and savings in paying for his journey to Britain, Omid’s family in Iraq have no money to pay for his body to be returned for burial. And attempts to raise the necessary £3,100 through the community in Britain have come to nothing – most Iraqi Kurds in Britain are themselves desperately poor.


The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF) has now launched an appeal to raise the £3,100 needed to send Omid Jamil Ali’s body back to Iraq. A CARF supporter, who recently travelled to Iraq, met with Omid’s parents, his younger brother and two sisters. His mother Galawza spoke of her pain of waiting three years and still not being able to bury her son. The family say that they have not been able to get over their grief while the body has remained in the mortuary.

Omid’s father, Jamal Ali Said, told CARF that he had heard how the British government had made it harder and harder for those seeking security to come to Britain. But he appealed to the British public themselves who he hoped would be more sympathetic to the family’s plight. ‘We did not ask for charity. We wanted our son to find work so that we could survive as a family. Now we have nothing.’

So far, the appeal has raised ten per cent of the money needed. CARF is also asking supporters to forward this report to friends and colleagues. Updates on the appeal will be available in future IRR News reports.

If you are able to make a donation, however small, please send a cheque, made payable to ‘CARF’, marked ‘Omid Jamil Ali Appeal’ on the back, to: CARF, BM Box 8784, London WC1N 3XX, UK.

Related links

What happens to those who die on Britain’s borders? – IRR report

Campaign Against Racism and Fascism

CARF can only accept cheques drawn in pounds sterling.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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