Home England government Legal challenge seeks to end UK jail of asylum seekers who run boats | Home office

Legal challenge seeks to end UK jail of asylum seekers who run boats | Home office


The UK government faces a major legal challenge against its policy of prosecuting asylum seekers who run boats across the Channel under migrant smuggling laws.

Since the start of 2020, Immigration Enforcement has initiated 67 successful prosecutions related to the piloting of small boats. But after court challenges earlier in the year, the Crown Prosecution Service issued new guidelines saying passengers – even those turning a corner – are potentially vulnerable asylum seekers who should not be prosecuted.

Despite these directives, the prosecution continued. Lawyers for several people jailed for smuggling will file a complaint with the appeals court on Tuesday, arguing that they were trying to be rescued at sea in order to be able to seek asylum.

Clare Moseley, director of Care for Calais, who testified at recent hearings, told the Observer that the people who run the ships are not criminals who make money from the crossings.

“In Calais, people tell us that they have to take their phone to be able to call the coast guard or the border police from the boat; these people are happy to meet the authorities – their full intention is to seek asylum.

“Some migrants drive the boat to find a place there because they cannot afford to pay a smuggler. These people are victims of conflict, torture and persecution, they are not criminals.

The appeals were sparked by a case in May when an Iranian, Fouad Kakaei, had his smuggling conviction overturned in a new trial after spending 17 months in prison. He told British authorities he took the helm to prevent the boat from sinking.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said at the time: “We are deeply disappointed with today’s verdict. The government is determined to crack down on criminals who facilitate illegal entry into the UK and put lives at risk.

Following the overturning of Kakaei’s verdict, the Crown Prosecution Service issued its new guidelines on Channel Crossing prosecutions, stating:… factors of public interest in charging those who simply enter illegally… Passengers in boats and other vehicles should not be prosecuted unless they are repeat offenders or have already been deported.

Despite the new guidelines, the prosecution continues.

Last week, 36-year-old Hammad al-Shamari was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for driving a boat with 25 people, including young children, across the Channel. He is a Kuwaiti Bidoon, a group persecuted by the government and often left stateless.

The lawsuits are part of a larger model of governments across Europe using increasingly harsh laws against migrants and refugees. In Italy, police have arrested more than 2,500 people for trafficking or aiding illegal immigration since 2013, often using anti-Mafia laws to press charges.

Earlier this year, Boris Johnson said the government would “ruthlessly toughen the sentences for anyone involved in this kind of human trafficking and smuggling across the Channel.”

The Nationality and Borders Bill currently under consideration in Parliament could facilitate the prosecution of people crossing the Channel and increase the life sentence for the offense of assisting illegal immigration.

Tom Pursglove, Minister of Justice and Combating Illegal Immigration, said after the most recent case: “The pilots of small boats are putting the lives of everyone in their boat in danger of death and it is right that we dissuade further attempts by bringing them to justice.

“Our new immigration plan will help prevent these dangerous crossings by introducing tougher penalties for those who risk people’s lives by facilitating illegal immigration.