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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 14:23 GMT
Longer sentences for people smugglers
David Blunkett
Blunkett: Determined to penalise people smuggling
The maximum jail sentence for human trafficking will be increased to 14 years, David Blunkett has announced.

The home secretary revealed the tougher punishment for criminals - usually working in organised gangs - who charge desperate refugees huge amounts of money to enter Britain illegally.

The current maximum penalty of 10 years in prison is to be increased to 14 under proposals in the Immigration, Asylum and Citizenship White Paper, expected next month.

The new maximum penalty of 14 years gives the clearest of signals

Home Secretary, David Blunkett
During a speech to the Foreign Policy Centre at Canada House in London on Tuesday, Mr Blunkett said: "We need to start getting much tougher with them.

"I'm intending to legislate to expand the penalty for smuggling and trafficking from 10 years to 14 years."

Mr Blunkett said this would "send a signal to those who actually feel there's nothing evil about the way in which they take and use the lives of others".

Asylum increase

He said smugglers often exploited illegal immigrants once they were in the country without claiming nationality or asylum status.

The government was already acting, in the Proceeds of Crime Bill, to strengthen its powers to seize and confiscate the assets built up by criminals, he said.

The number of asylum applications in the UK rose from 26,000 in 1990 to more than 70,000 in 1999 and 76,000 in 2000, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers.

These figures exclude spouses and children, so the number of asylum seekers is nearer 100,000 a year.

But in September a right-wing think tank estimated that 400,000 illegal immigrants a year were entering the UK.

See also:

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29 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Asylum seekers to get ID cards
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