A man who tried to smuggle 22 people into the UK has been sentenced to 3 years and 8 months imprisonment.
Tomasz Cierniak, a 32-year-old Polish national attempted to travel through Harwich International Port with 22 Afghan nationals hidden in the back of his lorry.
He was caught by the Border Force officers on 2nd February 2016 when they stopped the lorry Cierniak was driving after it had arrived at the port on a ferry from the Hook of Holland.
Cierniak told officers that he was carrying electronic goods. When the lorry’s rear doors were opened washing machines and tumble dryers were found stacked 3 high and 4 across.
But when the officers unloaded the lorry, they found 22 people, including five children, in a purposely created gap between the heavily loaded back and the front of the trailer.
Cierniak, who had no fixed UK address, was arrested on suspicion of facilitating a breach of the UK’s immigration laws and the investigation was passed to Immigration Enforcement’s criminal and financial investigations (CFI) team.
Cierniak admitted the offence at Chelmsford Crown Court on 10th July and was sentenced at the same court on 13th July.
Rebecca Webb, from the immigration enforcement CFI team, said: “The dangers of cramming this group into a small space behind a wall of heavy goods during a 6 hour ferry crossing are obvious, but 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.”
Following his initial arrest, Cierniak was bailed pending further investigation, but failed to report to Colchester Police Station. CFI officers obtained a European Arrest Warrant and on 23 May, 2017, Cierniak was arrested by police officers in Italy. He was extradited to the UK and remanded in custody.
Ms Webb added: “Cierniak thought he could evade justice, but we, along with our law enforcement partners in Europe, never stopped looking.
“As this case demonstrates, we work closely with Border Force and other criminal enforcement agencies both in the UK and abroad. Our net is wide and the message to anyone involved in immigration criminality is clear – we will catch you and bring you before the courts.”