Two Iranian human traffickers have been sentenced to 8 and 9 years in prison in Belgium for sending migrants including children on dangerous trips across the North Sea to the UK in flimsy inflatable dinghies.
The court in Bruges in the Belgian province of West Flanders heard how the defendants sent migrants, many with children, across the North Sea in life-threatening conditions over a period of at least six months.
The pair was stopped by the police in the Belgian town of Koksijde on 2nd May this year as the vehicle had been reported as stolen in Germany.
However, the police grew suspicious when they found an outboard motor, filled jerry cans, multiple lifejackets, and a dinghy in the boot.
The suspects, Omid K., 39, and his Iranian compatriot Reza J., 33, were placed under arrest.
Attorney Manuel Manderick told the court: “The investigation showed that both men had been involved in human trafficking for a long time.”
“They were part of an organisation that bought dinghies and accompanying equipment in Germany and brought them to France via Belgium.
“There they recruited people and then put them at sea in a dinghy.”
According to the news site HLN, the police found a voice message from April this year from a man who was angry that he had been stuck in northern France for several days.
Manderick said: “According to the public prosecutor’s office, the trafficking was well organised. The migrants were allowed to cross the channel after they had proven they paid a fee of EUR 3,300 (GBP 3,028 ).”
Omid K. was considered the ringleader and was sentenced to nine years in prison on 23rd September.
The co-defendant claimed to only be a helper and defence lawyers asked for a prison term of seven years, however the judge considered his role to be prominent and sentenced Reza J. to eight years.
The authorities were unable to prove the exact number of migrants they trafficked, but they organised multiple crossings, including with young children present, over a period of at least six months.
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