Four men were sentenced to a total of about 17 years for smuggling Vietnamese nationals — including children — in a yacht to the U.K. last April.
The immigrants, who had been crammed “like freight,” were shipped through a harbor in Newlyn, a fishing village in the South West England county of Cornwall.
Authorities found a total of 29 Vietnamese nationals in the van. At the same time, four men were arrested on the yacht.
Investigation revealed that the yacht, known as the Johan Sebastian, had set off from Newlyn on April 8, 2019 to Roscoff, France. It returned at 7:07 a.m. on April 12.
The suspects were identified as Frank Walling (73), Glen Bennett (55), Jon Ransom (63) and Keith Plummer (63). On Monday, they appeared at Truro Crown Court to receive their sentences.
The gang was found guilty under section 25 of the Immigration Act. Walling, Bennett and Ransom all got four-and-a-half years each, while Plummer received 40 months, according to the BBC.
“In the van, being carted around like freight, were 29 living, breathing and I have no doubt desperate human beings for whose plight you cared not one jot,” Judge Robert Lindford told the men, according to the Daily Mail. “This was no humanitarian enterprise but one for gain, benefiting from human misery.”
Lindford held the men accountable for the fate of the immigrants, some of whom have reportedly disappeared.
“You four are all responsible for the fact that these people are now unlawfully in this country, but more than that you were in a trade that exploited these poor, hapless people.”
Of the immigrants, 17 are believed to be under the age of 18, and three of them have gone missing, according to Crown Prosecutor Don Tait.
On the other hand, 11 adults have also disappeared, with only one being successfully deported.
It is understood that police are still looking for the illegal immigrants.
“We hope the sentencing serves as a reminder that people are not commodities to be handled like cattle with total disregard for their health and safety,” Detective Inspector Glenn Willcocks of the Devon and Cornwall Police said, according to The Guardian.
“The four risked the lives of 29 men, women and children. They were motivated only by monetary reward — and thankfully no one paid the ultimate price.”
Feature Images via Devon and Cornwall Police