Alexandru-Dorinel Fuiorea, 29, was stopped by police and the National Crime Agency at the Medway Services in Gillingham, Kent
A Romanian man who was caught trying to smuggle 17 migrants out of the UK in the back of a lorry has been jailed for three years.
Alexandru-Dorinel Fuiorea, 29, was stopped by police and the National Crime Agency at the Medway Services in Gillingham, Kent, as he travelled on the M20 last October.
Inside his trailer – which could only be opened from the inside – authorities found 16 men and one woman of Indian, Pakistani, Tunisian, Moroccan, Bangladeshi and Afghani descent.
Fuiorea had made no attempt to hide the migrants and there was no legal cargo onboard the lorry, Maidstone Crown Court heard today.
Prosecutor Emin Kandola said this was due to the fact a vehicle leaving the UK ‘would not normally expect to be searched’.
Asked why the migrants were leaving the UK, she said: ‘There are a number of reasons but no evidence of which.
‘One is they have claimed asylum (and failed), are fleeing to visit relatives in another country, or fleeing from the authorities in this country.’
Fuiorea, from Luton, Bedfordshire, admitted assisting unlawful immigration and possession of a small amount of cannabis found in his lorry cab on arrest.
He was jailed for three years and eight months.
Inside his trailer – which could only be opened from the inside – authorities found 16 men and one woman of Indian, Pakistani, Tunisian, Moroccan, Bangladeshi and Afghani descent
Fuiorea had made no attempt to hide the migrants and there was no legal cargo onboard the lorry, Maidstone Crown Court heard today
Fuiorea, a professional driver, had been in the UK for more than 10 years and had no previous convictions ahead of this charge, the court heard.
He claimed to be £17,000 in debt and been threatened with the sack by his employers if he did not carry out the human trafficking journey.
Miss Kandola said although Fuiorea acted ‘no higher’ than a driver, the prosecution did not accept his account that he was pressurised by his bosses or that they were behind the operation.
‘It was an unsophisticated offence but it clearly undermines cross-border security,’ she told the court.
‘He has played an important role and trafficked 17 human beings, attempting to transport them out of the country.’
A total of £900 was also found in his cab but the court was told this did not relate to people-smuggling and there will be no confiscation proceedings.
In 2015, an undercover BBC investigation revealed migrants were paying to leave the country to evade deportation and with the intention of returning to the UK again.
Once on the continent, they could apply for asylum and if successful, were likely to be returned to an EU country of choice rather than their homeland.
The lorry (above) contained 17 migrants, 16 men and one woman, when Fuiorea was stopped last October
Passing sentence, Recorder Alistair Webster said the number of migrants involved was a seriously aggravating factor.
He told Fuiorea: ‘It appears you may have been taking them out of the country to facilitate their entry into another EU country. Whether they had come in recently to be taken out makes no difference in terms of sentence.
‘This represents trafficking of vulnerable people who are desperate for various reasons and exploited largely by people associated with organised crime.
‘I accept your role was only that of a driver and you would have limited understanding of what was going on further up the line.
‘I also accept any financial profit out of this would have been a modest one and those who would have made the substantial profits were again higher up the line.
‘It’s a pity you did not feel able to assist the police and NCA in identifying those who were responsible.
‘It needs to be understood that all those playing a significant role in the trafficking of human beings will attract severe and significant sentences.
‘This is exploitation of desperate people, it places significant stress on border controls and resources, and undermines cross-border security.
‘You knew about the people in the back of the lorry, you knew they were being trafficked. You may have been under some pressure but the fact is you took them knowingly.’