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Egyptian man jailed for steering small boat across Channel

By AFP
Egypt Controversial new legislation makes any attempts to enter the UK via the Channel or other ports without prior authoritation illegal.  By HENRY NICHOLLS (AFP)
FRI, 01 SEP 2023 LISTEN
Controversial new legislation makes any attempts to enter the UK via the Channel or other ports without prior authoritation illegal. By HENRY NICHOLLS (AFP)

An Egyptian man who took selfies while piloting a small boat across the Channel with dozens of migrants on board was jailed on Friday, the UK's interior ministry said.

The government, under fire for new laws which rights groups insist violate international refugee conventions, welcomed the conviction.

Reda Hamoud Abdurabou, 25, was sentenced to three years and two months in prison after being convicted of assisting unlawful immigration to the UK and attempting to enter the country illegally, the ministry added.

The sentencing, at Salisbury Crown Court in southern England, follows his arrest in July 2022 after Border Force officials intercepted the "dangerously overcrowded" inflatable he was piloting.

UK officials found images on his seized mobile phone showing him posing with his hand on the motor's tiller earlier in the perilous journey, said ministry statement.

Investigators also found messages on his phone "about his attempt to reach the UK illegally" along with other selfies taken as he piloted the boat packed with 50 migrants, it added.

Under controversial legislation recently passed by the government, immigration officers have new powers to search and seize electronic devices from anyone trying to enter the UK illegally.

It also makes any attempts to enter the UK via the Channel or other ports without prior authorisation illegal.

That has been heavily criticised by rights groups and international organisations, including United Nations agencies, who argue it flouts London's obligations under refugee conventions.

The UK government has insisted its actions comply with such statutes.

Asylum issues

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said Abdurabou had "brazenly tried to flout our laws, and has rightly been brought to justice.

"Putting lives at risk by steering men, women and children across the Channel in flimsy dinghies will not be tolerated," he added.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said Abdurabou had 'brazenly tried to flout our laws, and has rightly been brought to justice'.  By JUSTIN TALLIS (AFP) Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said Abdurabou had 'brazenly tried to flout our laws, and has rightly been brought to justice'. By JUSTIN TALLIS (AFP)

More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Channel on small boats from France to southeast England since Britain began publicly recording the arrivals in 2018.

The route across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes has repeatedly proved perilous, with numerous previous capsizes and scores of migrants drowning in the waters over the last decade.

It has also strained Britain's asylum system, with a growing backlog of more than 175,000 people, including children, waiting for an initial decision by the end of June.

In July, a High Court judge ruled that the government's long-term use of hotels to house lone child asylum-seekers had been unlawful over the last 18 months and should not continue.

However, the interior ministry has placed more than 100 such children in hotels in recent weeks as local authorities struggle to meet the demand for accommodation, UK media reported Friday.

The ministry has repeatedly said it has no choice but to use hotels "on a temporary basis" while more permanent placements are found.

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