LONDON, July 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A British court on Thursday jailed a man for hiding 22 Afghans, including five children, inside a lorry and trying to smuggle them into the UK from The Netherlands, the interior ministry said.
Tomasz Cierniak, a 32-year-old Polish national, was arrested in February 2016 in The Netherlands for hiding the Afghans behind washing machines in his lorry and attempting to cross the Hook of Holland by ferry into Harwich, in southeastern England.
Cierniak pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court in England and was sentenced to three years and eight months imprisonment.
"Cierniak was content to put the lives of 22 desperate people at risk. People smuggling is a callous trade and those involved think nothing of treating human beings as commodities," said Rebecca Webb from Britain's immigration enforcement team.
"As this case demonstrates, we work closely with Border Force and other criminal enforcement agencies both in the UK and abroad," she added.
Over the past two years, about 1.5 million migrants have fled fighting and poverty across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, many entrusting their lives to people smugglers who charged exorbitant prices to help them reach Europe.
This has created a global business as profitable and sophisticated as drug trafficking, according to authorities who are struggling to stop the teaming up of migrants and smugglers.
Europol, Europe's police agency, said people-smuggling generated up to $6 billion in 2015, but profits dropped by about a third in 2016 after a European Union (EU) deal with Turkey last March largely stemmed the migration flow.
Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories