Two British men have been handed sentences adding up to 14 years in prison for smuggling 31 migrants into the UK, including seven children and a pregnant woman.
The two men, named as Akan B. from Nottingham and Dylan S. from Lincoln, have been found guilty of "dangerously smuggling 31 illegal migrants into the UK." The migrants included seven children and a pregnant woman.
According to a press release from the UK Home Office (Interior Ministry), Nottingham Crown Court handed each man a seven-year prison sentence following a five-year investigation. The men were found guilty of "recruiting drivers to hide migrants in hired vans containing various goods before smuggling them into the UK."
Between 2016 and 2018, the smugglers were found to have paid six different drivers to bring in Iraqi migrants on six separate occasions. The majority of migrants were men; some of the children were found to be as young as one.
'Crammed into vehicles'
Photos used in court depicted some of the migrants "crammed into vehicles among stacks of tires, second-hand furniture and household goods," stated the press release.
The investigating teams said that the smugglers had used these goods to conceal the migrants and even, in one attempt, had strewn paprika spice on the floor of the van in an attempt to confuse any potential sniffer dogs.
Ben Thomas, Deputy Director for Criminal and Financial Investigations at Immigration Enforcement, referred to the two men as "evil" because they "endangered the lives of people, including children, to line their pockets without a care in the world for their safety."
Thomas continued that he hoped "these sentencings send a powerful message that breaking the law and putting individuals' lives at risk will not go unpunished."
Smugglers are 'brazen' and 'despicable'
Tom Pursglove, the Conservative Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, called the smugglers "brazen" and "despicable," describing the "tiny, air-tight spaces" in which the migrants were placed in the van as being "room to barely move."
Pursglove added that the government's recently passed immigration law, the Nationality and Borders Act, will make prosecuting people like the accused "easier ... by making it a criminal offence to arrive in the UK illegally," adding that "we can truly break the business models of these callous criminals."
The vans, in which the migrants were being smuggled, reported the BBC, were "intercepted by Border Force and French law enforcement officers at sites including Dover in Kent and Coquelles, near Calais, in France."
Migrants crossing English Channel surpass 10,000
This sentence comes less than a month after a gang of five were sentenced by Reading Crown Court for similar crimes. In early May, the court sentenced five gang members for smuggling 35 Afghan refugees "including children as young as two and a disabled person inside 'coffin-like' wardrobes."
In this case, reported the online pages of Nottingham Post, the gang received a combined total of 24 years and two months in prison.
The numbers of those who have crossed the English Channel to the UK this year is now believed to have surpassed 10,000, reported the BBC. Some government estimates even predict at least 60,000 migrants to attempt to cross to the UK in small boats by the end of the year.
According to UK government figures, in the week from May 30 to June 5 this year, a total of 658 migrants arrived in 20 small boats.