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Asylum seeker from Iran jailed and faces deportation after being spotted piloting dinghy through Channel

An Iranian caught twice illegally entering Kent on small inflatable boats has today been jailed for people smuggling.

Nima Bari denied piloting both vessels across the English Channel however, a jury this week found him guilty on one count of people smuggling.

Nima Bari, 21
Nima Bari, 21

The 21-year-old was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court for three years for assisting unlawful immigration.

Bari and 11 others - with just three wearing life jackets - embarked on the perilous 21-mile journey, in freezing conditions, during the evening of January 4 last year.

But Border Force’s Speedwell vessel intercepted the rigid inflatable boat in UK waters the next morning.

The men, all identifying as Iranian nationals, were escorted to Dover for processing - Bari was soon returned to the French authorities.

Prosecutors would later argue Bari piloted the boat however, on Monday he was acquitted for that occasion of assisting illegal immigration into a member state.

Nima Bari has been jailed for piloting two dinghies across the Channel
Nima Bari has been jailed for piloting two dinghies across the Channel

But equipped with experience of crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane, Bari piloted the vessel with two women and nine men on board six months later in June.

Border Force at 5am was again alerted to the vessel, this time containing Iranian and Iraqi nationals, but this time Bari’s hand was on the tiller.

Under caution, Bari told immigration investigators he was one of a number of passengers who piloted the boat, then later changed his story.

Represented by Niall Doherty, Bari denied steering the vessel, asserting he merely disengaged the outboard motor when Border Force emerged.He also claimed gangs co-erced him into making the crossings.

But a jury on Monday convicted Bari on “clear and compelling evidence” of one count of assisting unlawful immigration.

Judge Mark Weekes described him as an “unreliable witness” who changed his account “on a number of issues.”

“I judge that you lied to the jury.

“I am prepared to accept that you left Iran because you were fleeing domestic violence however you had reached Turkey where your claim (for asylum) was being processed and had not been determined.

“You had a place to live and were permitted to work. Even on your own account your decision to enter the European Union was economic motivation,” he added.

The court heard Bari, his mother and sister, flew from Iran to Turkey three years ago to flee domestic violence.

He would work and claim asylum, yet before his application was determined his family shelled out 18,000 Euros to smugglers for access into mainland Europe.

His barrister Niall Doherty said Bari had been young, naive and “didn’t get the message the first time” he was caught.

Mitigating, he explained Bari did not organise or supervise the attempted June voyage, which was not financially motivated.

His client, who has applied for UK asylum, will also struggle in prison given he cannot speak English, he added.

But Judge Weekes warned Bari he had not fled Turkey under fear of persecution, failed to claim asylum France and will likely be deported.

He explained greater numbers of undetected illegal migrants in the UK increases the risk of harm to the public, with un-vetted people going undetected.

“Offences such as this significantly undermine the public’s confidence in existing immigration arrangements.

“It is likely the Secretary of State will consider removing you from the United Kingdom at the end of your sentence,” he added.

Judge Weekes jailed Bari for three years and ordered the destruction of the small grey and blue inflatable.

Black hair in a side-parting with a slight five foot eight tall frame, Bari, wearing a grey jumper and blue face mask remained quiet in the dock throughout the sentencing hearing.

Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts Chris Philp said: “These crossings are dangerous and they are also unnecessary – because France is a safe country with a well-functioning asylum system.

“We are going after the law breakers who are facilitating this international criminal trade and our use of surveillance technology, along with improved intelligence sharing with the French is making crossing the Channel harder than ever. This is our 11th conviction since August and, make no mistake, more will follow.

“We are also reforming the immigration system, which will be firm on those who abuse it, but fair on those who play by the rules. We have already made changes and will bring forward more reforms this year.”

Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney said: “Having entered the UK once and been removed, Bari subsequently facilitated a dangerous attempt to cross the Channel, putting lives at risk in the process.

“I welcome his conviction, which is further confirmation that if you are willing to take the helm you can expect to be arrested and prosecuted.”

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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