A French court has jailed four Afghans and handed lesser sentences to five others for smuggling 53 migrants to Britain on dinghies in 2021.
According Le Monde, the court in Paris tried nine Afghans aged 21 to 39 for taking part in four operations to smuggle migrants across the English Channel between January and March 2021. All passengers were picked up in either British or French waters.
The hardest sentence was handed down to a 30-year-old man who was convicted of having orchestrated the crossings. He was jailed for six years and fined €30,000. The court also ordered that he should be expelled from France once he has served his time.
Three other defendants were sentenced to five years in jail and €25,000 fine each, and also ordered to be deported afterward.
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The prosecutor had requested slightly harsher sentences, alleging that the defendants had “knowingly endangered the lives of others.” But their defense team said that they had been forced to flee the war-torn country ruled by the extremist Taliban and were living in poverty.
Reports suggest that the trial of the accused individuals commenced on April 11 in Paris. Among the defendants, several are alleged to have procured boats and life jackets and later abandoned them on sand dunes near the coastal town of Wimereux.
One of the defendants told investigators that at one dinghy launch, a passenger designated as the boat’s captain was allowed to travel for free, while the second passenger given the job of navigating GPS paid half price.
The British government has reported that the number of migrants arriving on the shores of southeast England in small boats exceeded 45,000 in 2022, a significant increase from the 28,000 arrivals in 2021.
In November 2021, 27 people, including a seven-year-old, drowned when their dinghy deflated during the journey.
In December 2019, two smugglers – an Afghan and a Dutch Guinean – were sentenced by the French court to six and three years in prison, respectively, after a 31-year-old Iranian woman drowned during a crossing.