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Man jailed for smuggling 52 migrants in dinghy

A 31-year-old man from South Sudan has been jailed for 20 months for smuggling more than 50 migrants across the English Channel in a “perilously overcrowded dinghy”.

Choul Phan Maker was sentenced at Winchester Crown Court for offences of unlawful arrival and assisting unlawful immigration after making the crossing which “endangered” the 52 passengers on board the boat.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Choul Phan Maker was caught piloting a vessel packed with 52 endangered passengers, many of whom were forced to stand on makeshift flooring.

“He was photographed by Border Force officials, grinning, with his hand on the tiller, as he brazenly steered the boat towards UK shores on 15 August last year.

“Maker, from South Sudan, had previously been ordered to leave France after being caught attempting to enter the UK in a lorry.

“He then spent more than three years in Europe, before travelling from Malta for his latest attempt to cross the Channel.

“Criminal and Financial Investigation officers identified Maker as the boat’s pilot and started gathering evidence to support his conviction.

“He was subsequently arrested and admitted to piloting the boat, telling officers that he had been offered the job by the criminal gang who facilitated the journey.”

Steve Blackwell, deputy director of Criminal and Financial Investigations at the Home Office, said: “This pilot thought nothing of endangering dozens of lives in order to make his own illegal journey to the UK.

“I’m thankful for the quick work of my investigating officers, which has led to us bringing this criminal to justice. His sentence shows that anyone caught piloting these dinghies can expect to be arrested and prosecuted.”

The Home Office spokeswoman said small boat crossings to the UK have fallen by 36%, while arrivals into Europe from Africa have increased by more than 70%.

According to analysis of Home Office figures by the PA news agency, 3,529 people had made the Channel crossing in small boats up to 19 March this year compared with 3,683 by the same point last year.

Illegal migration minister Michael Tomlinson said: “The criminal gangs behind these crossings don’t care if people live or die, as long as they pay, but they rely on migrants who are willing to steer their deadly crossings through the water.

“Putting lives at risk by taking charge of these dangerous, illegal and completely unnecessary crossing attempts will not be tolerated and it is right that this pilot has been brought to justice today.”

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