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"Tragedy was avoided by a whisker" - judge sentences Kent people smugglers to a total of nine years

Two men, jailed for smuggling eighteen Albanians onto the Kent coast, have been condemned as greedy, reckless and deceitful. The judge said the pair, Mark Stribling from Farningham and Robert Stilwell from Dartford, avoided tragedy by a whisker, when their boat started to take on water. They had their own lifejackets; but the Albanians in the sinking craft had none. They were rescued in a joint operation by the Coastguard, RNLI and Border Force patrol boat HMC Valiant. The perpetrators, who claimed they were fishermen who'd 'found' them' in the water were brought to justice following an investigation by Immigration Enforcement. Andrea Thomas reports from Maidstone Crown Court. She spoke to the man who led the investigation Dave Fairclough.

Video: Albanians rescued from tiny boat in English Channel

Two men have been jailed have been for more than four years each at Maidstone Crown Court for attempting to smuggle 18 Albanian immigrants into the UK. The group, including two children, were rescued from a sinking tiny boat in the English Channel.

Sentencing the men, Judge Jeremy Carey, said "a tragedy was averted by a whisker."

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Three year sentence for people smuggler

Jean Hennaux Credit: UK Border Agency

A Belgian man who attempted to smuggle four Albanians into the UK through Kent has been jailed for three years.

Jean Hennaux piloted a light aircraft that landed unexpectedly at Headcorn aerodrome on June 9th.

Once on the ground, four passengers disembarked only to by stopped by staff who called Kent Police.

Under questioning, the four Albanians admitted to have entered the UK illegally and Hennaux was arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.

He later admitted three similar smuggling attempts between March and June, pleading guilty to them at Maidstone Crown Court.

Mark Rickard, from the UK Border Agency, said: "People smuggling is a serious crime which exploits vulnerable and desperate people.

"The sentence handed down by the Court reflects the severity with which those involved can expect to be treated.

“We would encourage those using small airfields and airports to keep their eyes open, and report anything suspicious so that it can be investigated and dealt with.”

The four Albanians, two adults and two children, were granted immigration bail.

The two adults are reporting fortnightly to the UK Border Agency while all their cases are considered. If they are found to have no right to remain in the UK, they will be removed.