Romanian man jailed for smuggling Vietnamese into UK

By Minh Nga   February 22, 2024 | 04:38 pm PT
A U.K. court sentenced a Romanian man to three years in prison for entering Britain while driving a van carrying seven undocumented migrants crammed into a secret compartment.

The Chelmsford Crown Court handed over the sentence to Valeriu Iordatii, 24, last week, the U.K. Embassy in Hanoi announced Thursday.

Iordatii had driven the van, with six Vietnamese and one Syrian on board, into the U.K. using the car ferry from the Netherlands to Essex on Dec. 16, 2023.

Border officers at the Harwich International Port searched the van and discovered an overcrowded sleeping compartment above the driver’s cabin.

They found the six Vietnamese and one Syrian squeezed inside the compartment.

Iordatii claimed he had no idea the compartment was crammed full of people, despite it being directly above his head.

The van in which a Romanian man smuggled six Vietnamese and one Syrian in the U.K. in December 2023. Photo handed out by the U.K. Embassy

The van in which a Romanian man smuggled six Vietnamese and one Syrian in the U.K. in December 2023. Photo handed out by the U.K. Embassy

Minister for Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson said: "People smugglers don’t care if their passengers live or die, as long as they pay."

Iordatii told police that he met an old friend in Paris and that the encounter had led to arrangements for him to work in the U.K. delivering furniture in the van.

He said he had only done what the friend had instructed him to do by collecting the vehicle from a petrol station and heading for the port.

Two of the passengers claimed asylum while five others were deemed illegal entrants and returned to the Netherlands.

Iordatii will now be treated as a Foreign National Offender and could be removed from the U.K. after referral to the Home Office.

The compartment on top of a van where seven people were crammed to be smuggled into the U.K. in December 2023. Video released by the U.K. Embassy

Chris Foster, Deputy Director of Criminal and Financial Investigations at the Home Office, said: "This shocking case shows that people smugglers are going to increasingly extreme lengths to make their money. If anything had happened on that ferry, seven people would have been unaccounted for and trapped."

In the year ending June 2023, there were 52,530 irregular migrants detected entering the U.K., up 17% from the year ending June 2022, and 85% of these arrived via small boats, according to U.K. government data.

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30 last year, the U.K. Home Office Immigration Enforcement arrested over 246 persons for smuggling people into country, and there have been 124 convictions.

Many people willingly pay human trafficking rings to smuggle themselves into the U.K., or other European countries, to then find an illegal job.

The British government last year passed a new law, saying that undocumented immigrants would be temporarily detained and eventually sent to a third country or their country of origin, hoping that the policy would prevent human trafficking to the U.K.

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