Iranian refugee jailed after being seen steering two rubber dinghies across the English Channel

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A refugee who fled persecution in Iran and was later picked up by border forces in the Channel has been jailed and now faces deportation.

Fouad Kakaei was spotted at sea piloting dinghies bound for the UK twice in 2019, and although a judge admitted he had a “well-distributed fear of persecution” in his country original and had been exploited, he said he nevertheless played an “important role”. role ”in directing the boats.

Kakaei, 30, appeared in Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday via video link after pleading guilty to two counts of assisting illegal immigration.

The first concerns a crossing in July 2019 when Kakaei and 26 others were rescued from a crowded rubber dinghy and brought to Dover, Kent.

Prosecutor Simon Taylor told the court: ‘When he was searched the accused had £ 210 in pounds sterling with him as well as a Samsung cell phone.

During an interview, Kakaei said he and others took turns piloting the rubber dinghy as it crossed the Strait of Pas de Calais.

After arriving at the port, all but Kakaei applied for asylum and he agreed to return to Denmark where he had previously applied for asylum to no avail.

In December of the same year, Kakaei was seen in another dinghy with 10 other people heading for Britain.

All on board, including Kakaei, applied for asylum upon reaching British shores, the court said.

The prosecutor said: “He admitted that he piloted the boat.

“He said he did it because no one else could do it. He said the engine was a problem and he didn’t want to die at sea.

“He explained that he learned to pilot boats when he piloted a boat from Turkey to Greece in 2015 with more than 50 people on board.”

Aneurin Brewer, defending, said Kakaei had no financial motive for either offense and paid for his trip along with everyone else.

He added: “Many other migrants on board agreed to help steer the boat … (he) was just unhappy enough to be the one at the helm when the boat was banned.

“He was not responsible for setting up or organizing these crossings … and therefore he is not responsible for the overloading of these ships.”

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

When sentencing Kakaei, Judge Mark 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 have no doubt that you have been exploited by others to some extent as are all in your situation, I do not accept that in the end you did not want to get on the boat or that some form of compulsion applies to your situation, “he added.

Kakaei was jailed for two years and two months, much of which he has already spent in pre-trial detention. He was told that after serving his sentence he would likely be deported from the UK.

After the conviction, Home Office’s underground channel threat commander Dan O’Mahoney said Kakaei’s actions “put lives at risk” and that the prosecution “put an end to this cycle of crime “.

He added: “This case is a prime example of how evidence gathered during our operations in the Channel has helped bring a dangerous offender to justice.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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