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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 February 2021

Iraqi who steered people-smuggling dinghies across English Channel faces deportation

Fouad Kakaei jailed for trying to enter Britain illegally

UK Border Force boats patrol Dover Harbour. Getty/file
UK Border Force boats patrol Dover Harbour. Getty/file

An Iraqi who was twice seen at the tiller of people-smuggling dinghies in the English Channel was jailed and faces deportation when his sentence is completed.

Fouad Kakaei was caught as he tried to reach the UK from France.

Judge Mark Weekes accepted that Kakaei, 30, had a “well-founded fear of persecution” in Iraq and was exploited by traffickers.

But Mr Weekes said he also played a “significant role” by steering the boats.

In a video appearance at Canterbury Crown Court, Kakaei pleaded guilty to two charges of assisting unlawful immigration.

He was jailed for two years and two months, much of which he has already spent on remand since the crossings in 2019. After serving the sentence he will probably be deported.

In July 2019, Kakaei and 26 others were rescued from a packed dinghy and taken to Dover in southern England.

The boats on both occasions were totally unsuitable for such crossings

“When he was searched, the defendant was found to have £210 [$288] on him along with a Samsung mobile telephone,” prosecutor Simon Taylor said.

Kakaei claimed asylum but agreed to return to Denmark where he had earlier lodged an unsuccessful asylum claim.

Then, in December 2019, he was found in another dinghy with 10 others headed for Britain.

“He accepted that he had piloted the boat,” Mr Taylor said.

Defence lawyer Aneurin Brewer said Kakaei had no financial motive for the crossings and had paid for his place on the boat.

“Many of the other migrants on board agreed to assist with piloting the boat," Mr Brewer said.

"[He] was merely unfortunate enough to be the one left holding the tiller when the boat was intercepted.

“He was not responsible for setting up or arranging these crossings ... and so he is not responsible for the overloading of these vessels."

In sentencing Kakaei, Mr Weekes said: “The boats on both occasions were totally unsuitable for such crossings. They were overloaded and they were on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

“While I do not doubt that to an extent you were exploited by others as all in your situation are, I do not accept that ultimately you didn’t want to get in to the boat or that any form of duress applies in your situation.”

Updated: January 26, 2021 08:15 PM

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