Albanian woman who fixed small boat crossings for people smugglers jailed

Watch the moment National Crime Agency officers arrest Kermekaj at her home in Banbury.

An Albanian woman has been jailed for seven and a half years for acting as a fixer for people smugglers arranging small boat crossings from France to the UK.

Ujeza Kurmekaj, 32, facilitated crossings for Albanian nationals before being arrested by NCA officers at her home in Banbury, Oxfordshire, in October 2022

Investigators found hundreds of messages on her phone which showed her playing a key role linking people smugglers with passengers.

Messages on Kurmekaj's phone Credit: NCA

She sent instructions to contacts in France on who they should pick up, with messages including  ‘family one 3 women, children 14 17 12 years old’ and ‘we have here one family, man wife one child’.

Other messages indicated conditions, including ‘very bad sea’, and map location pins instructing where to pick migrants up or where boats were positioned in the Channel.

Further conversations showed individuals making contact with her to arrange crossings for their families.

Kurmekaj’s device also contained 21 images of Albanian ID cards and passports which, when checked on immigration systems, showed that nine of the individuals had arrived in the UK by small boat.

Kurmekaj was jailed for seven and a half years and will be deported after serving her sentence. Credit: NCA

Kurmekaj was charged with facilitating illegal immigration in September and pleaded guilty to the charge at Oxford Crown Court on 3 November.

She was sentenced at the same court on Friday and will be automatically deported at the end of her jail term.

Andy MacGill, NCA senior investigating officer, said: “Ujeza Kurmekaj played a major role as a broker, linking migrants with people smugglers who could transport them on dangerous journeys across the Channel.

“For this, she would arrange payments of hundreds of euros per person.

“Kurmekaj had little interest in the safety and security of the people she was arranging crossings for, only that she and her employers received payment.

“Disrupting and dismantling organised crime groups responsible for people smuggling is a priority for the NCA and we’ll continue to target offenders involved at every step of the journey.”