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Boat migrant jailed for 'assisting unlawful entry' under new laws


A migrant who claimed he was forced to pilot a boat carrying 45 people across the Channel was jailed just two days after arriving in the UK.

Ibrahim Al Amin, 20, said he was fleeing persecution from a tribe in Sudan to find refuge in Britain, but was instead arrested for assisting unlawful entry into the country under new powers designed to target smugglers.

Last June saw anyone caught piloting a boat carrying migrants across the Channel facing life behind bars as part of a move to increase sentences and deter refugees from trying to cross the shipping lanes.

Then-Home Secretary Priti Patel claimed at the time that the Nationality and Borders Act would give the government 'new powers to tackle criminality'.

But people smuggling gangs usually make refugees to steer the dinghies themselves when they leave the French coast, meaning the laws punish asylum seekers rather than the traffickers.

Folkestone Magistrates' Court heard Al Amin was the only person on the boat to be arrested when they landed on the Kent coast and that he was threatened by a rival tribe before leaving France.

But magistrates decided to jail him for eight months at a hearing on February 9.

Julie Farbrace, prosecuting, told the court: 'That boat had left the French coast and was making its way across the Channel when it was intercepted by UK assets and he was brought to shore.

'Records show he has never applied for a visa to enter the UK. Images of the boat were looked into and showed him piloting the boat.'

Chairman of the bench Mrs Dhadwal told the defendant: 'We deliberated long and hard, because it needs to be a punishment for you and also to send a message to others.

'We considered the fact that you were piloting the boat and your evidence that this was possibly under duress.

'We are of the view that you must be sentenced to custody, we have reduced the period to eight months from 12 months.'

Al Amin was also fined a victim surcharge of £187.