Author: Shruti Sheth Trivedi
Feim Vata, 32-years-old, and 24-year-old Xhemal Baco, both of The Broadway, were thrown behind bars after they were discovered transporting the migrants across the English Channel at night on to the beaches close to Deal, Kent.
It is suspected that Baco and Vata made the trip at least three times and whenever they had to abandon the boat, they would simply buy a new one with cash using false names.
On October 20, Baco picked up six Albanian illegal migrants in France, driving the small inflatable boat across the English Channel.
Upon arrival to the shore close to Deal, Baco hid the boat in some bushes and he and the illegal migrants hid in a vehicle driven by Vata before they were arrested by officers.
The pair pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration to a member state on Monday and were sentenced today at Canterbury Crown Court.
Their conviction follows months of investigation led by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) which was assisted by Thames Valley Police, Kent Police, the National Crime Agency, UK Border Force, French Police, French Navy, National Maritime Information Centre and Immigration Enforcement.
Detective Inspector Clair Trueman from SEROCU, who led the investigation said: “This was a large-scale operation, involving a number of agencies both here in the UK and aboard.
“We are pleased with today’s sentence and the guilty pleas by the men, which shows the quality of evidence that was put forward could not be refuted.
“Whilst I am pleased that these men are now behind bars, it is amazing that no one died during the extremely risky process.
“When the men and the illegal migrants were arrested, we found them cold and wet, they had travelled in an overloaded inflatable boat with no life vests or navigation equipment and across a busy shipping lane in total darkness.
“Experts told us that attempting to cross the channel in a boat the size Baco and Vata did, is like trying to cross the M25 at its busiest time on foot. They also told us that the boat was extremely unsuitable and overloaded.
“The boat Baco and Vata used is not designed to cross the channel, they used empty water bottles for bailing the water out which was found with the boat. It was reckless to even attempt such a crossing and everyone is extremely lucky to have survived.”