Channel migrants: Iranian jailed for piloting two dinghies

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image copyrightHome Office
image captionFouad Kakaei was pictured steering a dinghy across the English Channel

A Iranian man has been jailed for more than two years for piloting a dinghy full of migrants across the English Channel on two occasions.

Fouad Kakaei, 30, was told he faces deportation at the end of his sentence.

He helped steer a boat into Dover in July 2019, but was returned to Denmark, where he had earlier made an unsuccessful asylum claim, Canterbury Crown Court heard.

In December 2019, he again helped to pilot a dinghy across the Channel.

He attempted to claim asylum, but was arrested and held on remand until trial, the court heard.

image copyrightHome Office
image captionFouad Kakaei was returned to Denmark, but tried to reach the UK for a second time

Judge Mark Weekes accepted Kakaei had a "well-founded fear of persecution" in his homeland, but added: "I do not accept that ultimately you didn't want to get into the boat or that any form of duress applies in your situation."

Kakaei agreed to pilot the boat because he feared they would not safely make the crossing and "nobody else could do it".

"He explained that he had learned to pilot boats when he had piloted a boat from Turkey to Greece in 2015 with over 50 people on board," prosecutor Simon Taylor said.

Aneurin Brewer, defending, said "many of the other migrants on board agreed to assist with piloting the boat", but added that his client was "merely unfortunate enough to be the one left holding the tiller when the boat was interdicted".

When asked why Kakaei did not claim asylum in France, Mr Brewer said his understanding of asylum law in the EU was limited.

Following the sentencing, the Home Office's Clandestine Channel Threat Commander Dan O'Mahoney said Kakaei's actions "risked lives" and the prosecution "put a stop to that cycle of criminality".

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