Asylum seeker who tried to ferry 36 migrants across the Channel is jailed for ...

An Iranian asylum seeker who twice tried to ferry a total of 36 fellow migrants across the Channel in overloaded dinghies - the UK's biggest people smuggling bid using rubber boats - has been jailed for two years. 

Fouad Kakaei was sentenced after being found to be in charge of piloting the cramped vessels during the attempted crossing. 

The 30-year-old steered the inflatable boats from France to the UK coast - first with 27 people, then after that bid failed, with another 11 passengers.

Kakaei was first caught by Border Force manning a stricken rubber inflatable boat drifting off the Kent coast in July 2019.

After being rescued and deported to Denmark, where he previously failed in an asylum bid, Kakaei launched another attempt to reach Britain five months later - this time with 11 others on board.

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When he was arrested by British authorities, Kakaei claimed he was also a refugee and had not been paid to make the journey across the treacherous crossing.

Just two weeks before the second attempt, Kakaei was discovered by Border Force officers trying to sneak into the UK hidden on a cargo vessel that arrived in Tilbury, Essex, from Zeebrugge in Belgium along with five other migrants on December 12, 2019.

Kakaei told investigators he boarded the boat out of desperation after being persecuted in his native country, had no financial motive and only piloted the vessel because no one else knew how to and he did not want to die.

But at Canterbury Crown Court yesterday, he was jailed for two years and two months after pleading guilty to two counts of assisting unlawful immigration to the UK at an earlier hearing.

He will likely face deportation when his prison spell is over.

Fouad Kakaei, pictured on a dinghy, who twice tried to ferry a total of 36 fellow migrants across the Channel in overloaded boats - the UK's biggest people smuggling bid using rubber boats - has been jailed for two years

Fouad Kakaei, pictured on a dinghy, who twice tried to ferry a total of 36 fellow migrants across the Channel in overloaded boats - the UK's biggest people smuggling bid using rubber boats - has been jailed for two years

Both of Kakaei's voyages across the world's busiest shipping lane were undertaken at night without navigational lights, the court heard.

Video footage of the crossing shot on one of the migrant's phones showed them squeezed onto the tiny vessel as it bobbed on the dangerous waters.

Prosecutor Simon Taylor QC told the court the second boat was only built for seven people, not the 12 who were travelling across the Channel.

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He said: 'The problem with overloading such vessels is that it increases the chance of taking in water and reduces speed and manoeuvrability. These vessels were crossing a very busy shipping lane.

'The timings of the interceptions suggest the journeys would have taken place in the dark, neither of the vessels were fitted with navigation lights.'

Rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) are not considered suitable for such crossings, even when not overloaded, Mr Taylor added.

Border Force rescued the 27 asylum seekers after they ran into trouble off the Kent coast in July 2019.

Placed under caution at the Port of Dover, Kakaei admitted playing a part in piloting the inflatable and refused to hand over the pin to his Samsung mobile.

Of the 27 people on the boat all were adults bar two - one was 17 and the other aged 15.

Kakaei told authorities he wished to claim asylum for fear of persecution in Iran and was not part of a wider people smuggling conspiracy.

Kakaei told authorities he wished to claim asylum for fear of persecution in Iran and was not part of a wider people smuggling conspiracy

Kakaei told authorities he wished to claim asylum for fear

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