UK court overturns convictions of 4 asylum seekers who crossed the English Channel – Middle East Monitor

Four asylum seekers who crossed the Channel to the UK in small boats have successfully had their convictions overturned for immigration offenses, with the UK Court of Appeal acknowledging a lack of evidence they intended to enter the country illegally.

The asylum seekers – three Iranians and a Kuwaiti – have all been accused of steering the dinghies they were embarked on on their journey to Britain across the English Channel from France, in separate incidents in 2019 and 2020.

The Iranians are Samyar Bani, who was jailed for six years in 2019, Ghodratallah Zadeh, who was jailed for two years last year, and Fariboz Rakei, who was sentenced to four and a half years in March after being registered steering his canoe.

The Kuwaiti is Mohamoud Al-Anzi, who was sentenced to three years and nine months in February after being accused of leading a boat carrying 11 other people.

The UK Home Office, led by controversial Home Secretary Priti Patel, has branded the dozen asylum seekers and others in their position as human traffickers and smugglers – criminals that the government aims to reduce and prosecute.

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The prosecuted asylum seekers have denied the accusation, insisting that their intentions were not to smuggle migrants but to get safely ashore after being left to operate the dinghies by the smugglers that they they paid.

After it was reported in November that 12 asylum seekers had engaged in a fight against their convictions, the Court of Appeal ultimately ruled in favor of the four individuals on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to prove that they intentionally smuggled others into the country and tried to enter illegally.

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For Bani, in particular, the court agreed that the jury in his case had wrongly told him that he had broken the law by entering British waters. Instead, the judge said it depended on whether or not you intended to land illegally outside a port area.

“In the event of a landing on a beach…then it would be open to the jury to find that the coxswain assisted in an unlawful entry even if the boat was ultimately intercepted,” the judge said. “If, on the other hand, the facilitator knows that the only way the migrant intends to enter the UK is to be brought ashore by the UK Border Force, then they will not commit any ‘offense.”

Following the victory of the four asylum seekers, their residence status in the country is not yet known. Bani, however – as a convert to Christianity who would no longer be safe in Iran – is now said to be waiting for the Interior Ministry to decide on his asylum request.

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