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2001: Driver jailed for immigrant deaths

A Dutch lorry driver has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for his part in the deaths of 58 Chinese illegal immigrants.

They were found suffocated in the back of Perry Wacker's lorry when it was searched at the ferry port in Dover last June after arriving from Belgium.

Wacker, from Rotterdam, had closed the only air vent on the side of the container to avoid detection by immigration officials.

At Maidstone Crown Court he was found guilty of 58 charges of manslaughter, as well as four counts of conspiracy to smuggle immigrants into the UK.

Wacker's co-accused, interpreter Ying Guo, was jailed for six years for conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain.

The jury of nine women and three men convicted them unanimously after nearly 13 hours of deliberations following a six-week trial.

Human 'cargo'

The judge, Mr Justice Alan Moses, said that Wacker had treated the victims as 'cargo'.

"People like you create a risk of greater prejudice against those people who quite legitimately come to this country seeking refuge as asylum seekers or whatever," he said.

Only two of the 60 immigrants hidden in the back of the lorry survived the five-hour sea journey.

Wacker claimed he thought he was bringing over tomatoes but fingerprint and DNA evidence linked him to the warehouse where the Chinese immigrants were held before they were locked into the container.

After the conviction, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it had ended in justice for the victims.

CPS prosecutor Karen Wiseman said: "The smuggling of humans has become as profitable as drugs.

"This trade hinges on the promise that at the end of the journey the illegal immigrants are heading for a better life.

"Tragically for these 58 victims, commercial gain took precedence over human life."

In Context
In May 2001 the leader of the international ring behind smuggling the Chinese into Britain was given a nine-year sentence by a Dutch court.

Gursel Ozcan, a Turk, was cleared of manslaughter but found guilty of negligence.

The same month, six members of a UK-based "Snakehead" - or Chinese mafia - gang were jailed for a total of almost 50 years for smuggling illegal immigrants into the UK and holding them for ransom.

Police believe 10 "Snakehead" gangs control the trade in Britain.

Many of the migrants, like the 58 dead Chinese at Dover, come from Fujian province in east China and are charged up to $30,000 for the journey.


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