Essex

Man jailed for people smuggling at Harwich port

The inside of the lorry Image copyright Border Force
Image caption Illegal immigrants were found hidden in the lorry behind washing machines

A people smuggler found to have 22 Afghan nationals concealed in his lorry has been jailed for three years and eight months.

Border Force officers stopped the lorry driven by Polish national Tomasz Cierniak, 32, at Harwich International Port in February last year.

It had left a ferry from the Hook of Holland, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Cierniak, of no fixed UK address, had previously admitted facilitating a breach of the UK's immigration laws.

When the lorry's rear doors were opened, officers found washing machines and tumble dryers stacked three high and four across.

But a search revealed 22 people, including five children, in a purposely created gap between the heavily loaded rear and the front of the trailer.

Image copyright Border Force
Image caption Tomasz Cierniak said he deeply regretted what he had done

In mitigation the court heard Cierniak, whose wife was about to give birth to their first child in Poland, deeply regretted what he had done.

'Callous trade'

Sentencing Cierniak, Judge Emma Peters said she accepted he was not the organiser of the operation and had followed instructions, but he knew illegal immigrants were in his lorry.

She said: "The borders of this country must be respected and not be breached by people like you seeking to make money out of misery and desperation."

Rebecca Webb, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations team, said: "The dangers of cramming this group into a small space behind a wall of heavy goods during a six-hour ferry crossing are obvious, but Cierniak was content to put the lives of 22 desperate people at risk.

"People smuggling is a callous trade and those involved think nothing of treating human beings as commodities."

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