Two jailed for smuggling migrants to UK in ‘extremely unsuitable’ boat

Two men have each been jailed for eight years for smuggling Albanian migrants into the UK in an operation so dangerous it was compared to trying to cross the M25 at rush hour on foot.

Feim Vata, 32, and Xhemal Baco, 24, both of The Broadway in Farnham Common, Slough, Berkshire, were sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on Wednesday for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, Kent Police said.

A joint investigation between UK and French authorities found they were moving migrants from France in small inflatable boats across the Channel at night to the Kent coast near Deal.

Feim Vata and Xhemal Baco
Feim Vata and Xhemal Baco

They used the “extremely unsuitable and overloaded” craft in a move compared to trying to walk across Britain’s busiest motorway during rush hour.

The pair were arrested on October 20, after Baco was seen picking up six Albanian migrants in France, driving the boat across the Channel and meeting Vata in Kent.

Investigators believe they had made the trip at least three times, using an old plastic water bottle to bail out the boat as they made the crossing.

A bottle to bail water out of the boat
A bottle to bail water out of the boat

Detective Inspector Clair Trueman said: “It is amazing that no one died during the extremely risky process.

“When the men and the illegal migrants were arrested, we found them cold and wet, they had travelled in an overloaded inflatable boat with no life vests or navigation equipment and across a busy shipping lane in total darkness.

“Experts told us that attempting to cross the channel in a boat the size Baco and Vata did is like trying to cross the M25 at its busiest time on foot. They also told us that the boat was extremely unsuitable and overloaded.

“The boat Baco and Vata used is not designed to cross the channel, they used empty water bottles for bailing the water out which was found with the boat. It was reckless to even attempt such a crossing and everyone is extremely lucky to have survived.”