England

Two jailed for smuggling migrants across Channel to Kent

Feim Vata (left) and Xhemal Baco Image copyright SEROCU
Image caption Feim Vata (left) and Xhemal Baco were each jailed for eight years

Two men who transported illegal immigrants across the English Channel in inflatable boats have been jailed.

Feim Vata, 32, and Xhemal Baco, 24, were arrested last month after picking up six Albanians in France and bringing them ashore near Deal in Kent.

They are believed to have made the trip at least three times at night, using a plastic water bottle to bail out water.

Police said the operation was so dangerous it was like "trying to cross the M25 at rush-hour on foot".

Vata and Baco, both of The Broadway in Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, were each jailed for eight years at Canterbury Crown Court after admitting conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Image copyright SEROCU
Image caption The inflatable boat was "overloaded" with Albanian migrants
Image copyright SEROCU
Image caption Empty water bottles were used to remove water from the boat

Det Insp Clair Trueman from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit who led the investigation said it was "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... 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."

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