LONDON: Three men have been jailed for human trafficking after smuggling three Vietnamese teenagers and a young man into Britain from France, police said yesterday.
The sentencing comes after 39 Vietnamese migrants – 31 males and eight females – were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Essex, east of London in October.
Hundreds of migrants try to enter Britain every year through the Channel.
Christian King and Henry Dunn, both 38, were given nine-year sentences by a judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, while James Davis, 31, was jailed for four-and-a-half years.
King, from Worcester Park in southwest London, denied conspiracy to facilitate unlawful entry into Britain but was found guilty at a trial.
Dunn, from Sevenoaks, southeast England, was found guilty of the same charge after a retrial, and of involvement in the activities of an organised crime network.
Davis, from New Malden, southwest London, pleaded guilty to both charges.
Detective Superintendent Neil Ballard, from London’s Metropolitan Police, said the convictions followed co-operation with British coastguard and customs, and their French counterparts.
“The victims of this crime were young, vulnerable males who were trafficked through Europe to the beaches of France where they were put onto an inflatable boat,” he said.
“The boat travelled to the coast of the United Kingdom in the cover of winter night, putting the vulnerable victims in an extremely frightening and dangerous situation.”
Ballard said the judge said the migrants’ lives were “ruthlessly placed in jeopardy” by the trio’s desire to make money from misery.
An undercover investigation in November 2017 tracked two of the smugglers as they crossed the Channel from the English south coast to a beach near Boulogne.
Four Vietnamese males – aged 14, 15, 16 and 23 – were brought back and later detained by police on the motorway near the port of Folkestone.
Davis and King were arrested, and Dunn handed himself into police several months later.
The eldest migrant said he had been trafficked against his will to France and forced to work before being put on the boat.
Police said the inflatable boat was poorly maintained, had no warning lights or emergency radio, making it “invisible” to passing boats in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Emergency flares were out of date and there were no life jackets on board, while modifications made to the vessel posed a risk of explosion, the force added in a statement.