Published: 10:33, 06 March 2021
| Updated: 10:42, 06 March 2021
An Iranian who risked his own life and those of 12 others – including a seven-year-old boy - by steering an over-crowded boat of asylum seekers across the Channel to Kent has been jailed for four years and a half years.
He is the 10th person to be jailed this year for such an offence, but received the longest sentence to date.
Fariboz Rakei, 49, denied a charge of assisting unlawful immigration into the UK when he appeared at Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday.
But he was found guilty after a three-day trial.
The court heard that on September 7 last year a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was intercepted by a Border Force coastal patrol vessel as it travelled from France to the UK.
The four-metre long craft was designed to carry a maximum of eight people, but had 13 on board.
The boat passengers were transferred to the Border Force vessel and taken to Dover.
Rakei, who had been steering the boat, had entered the UK via small boat on a previous occasion in June 2019.
He had been subsequently removed from the UK to Germany in November of that year.
In mitigation, Rakei said he had maritime experience from his time serving in the Iranian military and that he had been put under duress to steer the vessel by the organised crime group that arranged the crossing.
The jury took less than an hour to convict him.
The Minister for Immigration Compliance and Justice, Chris Philp, said: "We are working day and night with French counterparts, including through improved intelligence sharing and increased patrols in northern France, to stop these crossings.
"As this case shows, we are also going after the people involved in facilitating this criminal trade.
"People smugglers are endangering life.
"These crossings are not only illegal, but also unnecessary, as France is a safe country with a well-functioning asylum system.
“Furthermore, we are changing our asylum system to make it fair to those who play by the rules, but firm on those who seek to abuse it.”
Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O’Mahoney said: “Steering a vessel like this, for any duration of its journey across the Channel, is a criminal offence that puts lives in danger.
"It is all the worse, when one of those lives is only seven years old.
“These crossings are only possible if someone is willing to pilot the vessel and we want to deter people from taking the helm.
"That is why we will continue to pursue those who do so and ensure that their reckless actions have serious consequences.”
Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.