Five men have been jailed for a total of almost 24 years for running a large-scale people smuggling ring bringing Kurdish migrants into the UK hidden in the back of lorries.
National Crime Agency investigators say the gang leader, Tarik Namik, 45, from Oldham, headed up a lucrative criminal enterprise transporting migrants from Iraq and Iran and had connections with other people smugglers overseas.
Ahmed using a telephone at his car wash in Burnley National Crime Agency
Officers say the gang operated a sophisticated and lucrative criminal enterprise, hiring lorry drivers often from Turkey.
Recordings found on Namik’s phone suggest that he may have been involved in the smuggling of at least 1,900 migrants from the Balkans into France or Germany during a 50-day period in 2017, charging around 1,800 euros per migrant.
Namik and Gider meeting at Namik’s car wash in Stockport National Crime Agency
The group would then offer two separate means of getting to the UK, which would incur extra cost.
The first, an ‘escorted’ facilitation, would see individual migrants collected by hired lorry drivers in France or Belgium and hidden within their vehicle, sometimes within the wind deflector above the cab. They would then be met by an escort once they had arrived into Dover before being taken on to their final destination.
The other method would be to conceal larger groups of migrants in the back of a lorry, also driven by a hired haulier, to be released once the driver was safely through border controls. Once here the migrants would claim asylum.
In September 2017, a group of nine migrants were released from a Polish lorry in a layby in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. The group, which included five children, needed medical help and were taken to hospital.
Ahmed at UK controls outbound Eastern Docks Dover National Crime Agency
Namik and Ahmed in a bank in Oldham National Crime Agency
Gang members Hajar Ahmed, 39 from Manchester, and Soran Saliy, 32 from Stoke, are understood to have helped co-ordinate the UK leg of the operation.
Habil Gider, 54 from Stoke, acted as an escort for some of the migrants once they were in the UK, while Hardi Alizada, 32 from Nottingham, travelled out to Europe to co-ordinate operations from there.
Tarik Namik’s operation was finally dismantled in April 2018, when he, Ahmed and Saliy were arrested by officers from the NCA.
Alizada was arrested in Nottingham in February 2019 and charged in connection with his role.
All five admitted charges against them during a series of previous hearings.
NCA Branch Commander Richard Harrison said: “The NCA has dismantled a prolific and sophisticated crime group involved in Organised Immigration Crime.
“The criminal group sought to subvert the UK asylum system for their own financial gain, putting vulnerable migrants – including young children - at great risk by transporting them in the back of lorries or in concealments.
“This investigation demonstrates the NCA’s commitment to tackling Organised Immigration Crime, working with partners to relentlessly pursue those intent on smuggling vulnerable migrants into the UK"
Today, the gang was sentenced to a total of 23 years and 11 months at Manchester Crown Court.
Tariq Namik failed to attend court for the hearing. He was sentenced in his absence and a warrant has now been issued for his arrest.