Two Albanians and a polish lorry driver have been jailed for their involvement in the “appalling but profitable” people smuggling business, after 20 illegals migrants were found in the back of a lorry.
Border Force officials found one Syrian and 19 Albanian nationals in the back of a sealed HGV vehicle at North Shields Tyne port terminal on 1 September 2015.
HGV driver Marek Niedziechi, 33, who worked for a delivery firm based in Warsaw in his Polish homeland, denied knowing there were people being smuggled in the back of his lorry, ITV News reports.
However, the court heard how he conspired with Albanian nationals Ferdinand Gjolla, 41, who is now a British citizen, and Armand Mekolli, 30, to facilitate unlawful entry into the UK, which they all denied.
All three men were tried and convicted by a jury on a charge of conspiracy to facilitate unlawful entry to a member state of the European Union (EU) between June 2013 and October 2015.
Lorry driver Mr. Niedziechi was jailed for five years. Organiser Mr. Gjolla was jailed for eight years. And Mr. Mekolli, who would transport the immigrants once they were in the UK, was jailed for three years and three months.
Prosecutor Paul Abrahams said: “We say these three men, with others that we cannot identify, agreed to smuggle people into the UK who had no right to remain, they were not from the UK or EU citizens.”
Judge Sarah Mallett added: “The motivation was commercial, with no suggestion it had any humanitarian aspect to it. All involved in it were motivated by profit, in the full knowledge immigration controls were being circumvented.
“That is damaging nationally, but also involves exploitation of those in dangerous, vulnerable and distressing circumstances. There is a necessity to deter others from becoming involved in what can be extremely lucrative.”
The Albanian nationals found in the lorry were deported almost immediately. The Syrian man, however, claimed asylum in the UK. He told investigators he had travelled from Syria through Europe to try to reach his wife in Britain.