Published: 14:33, 08 July 2019
| Updated: 15:49, 08 July 2019
A man who organised people smuggling attempts on small boats has been jailed.
He was caught after being found on a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) near Folkestone in March.
Sarbast Mohammed Hama, 31, of no fixed UK address, was today jailed for three years and four months at Lewes Crown Court.
He had pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration at Lewes Crown Court in a case led by Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI).
A CFI investigation was started into Hama, who is an Iraqi national, after he was discovered on board a RHIB at about 1am on March 27 this year.
The vessel had been intercepted close to Folkestone by a Border Force cutter with 13 migrants, including two children, on board.
It has since been made clear that incident involved a total 13 people, not 14 as first thought, and was in the early hours in the morning.
Home Office checks revealed Hama had been encountered previously on a different RHIB off the coast of Deal last Christmas Day with 10 other Iraqi nationals.
Following this, he had presented himself as an Iranian national and submitted an immigration application which was ongoing.
When he was found in the Channel for a second time in March, Hama was arrested on suspicion of assisting unlawful immigration.
Inquiries revealed that the vessel used last March was bought with cash the day before the crossing from a watersports shop in the Netherlands.
CCTV showed Hama on March 22 and 26 buying a RHIB on each occasion as well as boat motors and lifejackets.
Hama can be seen signing a receipt on March 22.
Footage from March 26 also shows Hama changing the number plates on his car outside the shop.
Steve Whitton, from Border Force’s maritime command said after the hearing: “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.
“Our cutter and coastal patrol vessel crews will continue to work closely with CFI colleagues to ensure those responsible for this type of dangerous and illegal crossing face justice.”
David Fairclough, CFI assistant director, said: “It was detailed forensic examination of the vessel involved in the March incident, conducted by colleagues from the National Crime Agency, that identified where the boat had been purchased.
“That was a real breakthrough and the CCTV we collected from the Netherlands made for a damning case against Hama.
“This complex investigation is an excellent example of law enforcement agencies working effectively together to strike people smuggling at source and tackle the criminals behind these extremely dangerous crossings.
"The vessels used were unfit to cross the channel in the best of conditions, let alone in the middle of winter..." Steve Whitton
“People smuggling by small boats is not an issue that any agency can solve in isolation.
"But working closely with our partners at home and abroad we will continue to put those involved in this type of criminality before the courts.”
There has been a continual trend of migrants crossing the Channel by small craft over the last year.
From November 8 until last Saturday there were a net 86 incidents involging a total 751 people.
These have included people reaching the shores at places such as Dover, Kingsdown, Deal, Folkestone and Romney Marsh.
But mostly such cases have involved people rescued at sea by British authorities and brought ashore.