Iraqi people smuggler jailed in Belgium for organising Channel crossing

Alkhazaali Wissam Fawzi received a six-year sentence after an international operation to prosecute him

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard the Ramsgate Lifeboat following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Thursday August 10, 2023. PA
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The leader of a people-smuggling gang responsible for organising a failed small boat journey to the UK for a group of asylum seekers has been jailed.

After an international operation, Alkhazaali Wissam Fawzi, 33, was handed a six-year sentence in a Belgian court, the Home Office said.

Fawzi appeared at Bruges Correctional Court on Monday, having been prosecuted for organising a small boat crossing on the English Channel.

He was also fined €184,000 ($200,698) as part of his punishment.

The Iraqi national organised in October 2021 for a small boat filled with asylum seekers to leave France destined for the UK.

But the boat, which had 24 migrants on board, was blown off course and its occupants had to be rescued near the Belgian coast.

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Officers from the Home Office’s criminal and financial investigations team helped to identify the defendant and shared information that led to his arrest by French officers, according to the Whitehall department.

The conviction comes only two days after at least six people died and dozens were rescued after a boat got into difficulty off the coast of Sangatte, northern France, on Saturday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said stopping the boats and cracking down on people traffickers were among his top five priorities before next year’s general election.

Updated: August 14, 2023, 9:58 PM