People-smuggler jailed for bringing migrants across Channel in dinghies

A people smuggler has been jailed for bringing migrants across the Channel in tiny inflatable boats.

Sarbast Mohammed Hama, 31, of no fixed UK address, admitted assisting unlawful immigration at Lewes Crown Court and was jailed for three years and four months.

An investigation was launched into the Iraqi national when he was stopped in a dinghy packed with 13 migrants, including two children, by a Border Force cutter near Folkestone, Kent in March.

Checks revealed he had previously been stopped on another inflatable boat on Christmas Day 2018, off the coast of Deal, Kent, with 10 Iraqi migrants, the Home Office said.

After that brush with the law he had falsely claimed to be Iranian and applied for permission to stay in the UK, a process that was ongoing.

Hama was arrested after the second stop.

Steve Whitton, from Border Force’s maritime command, said: “When he was intercepted by Border Force, Hama was involved in reckless attempts to smuggle people, including young children, into the UK.

“The vessels used were unfit to cross the channel in the best of conditions, let alone in the middle of winter.”

Investigators from the National Crime Agency examined the boat after Hama was stopped and traced it back to a shop in the Netherlands.

From there a team from Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations secured CCTV that showed him buying the boat along with motors and lifejackets.

He was also filmed changing the number plates on his car outside the shop.

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