British Men Jailed in France for Smuggling Migrants on Private Plane
A French court has sentenced two Brits to 2.5 years in prison for smuggling migrants from France to the UK using a light plane. Prosecutors say that the case is unprecedented.
Pilot and architect David Green, 54, from Essex and his accomplice, 46-year-old carpenter Edward Buckley from Hertford, made five flights from Marck aerodrome near Calais, France since April, carrying between two to four passengers each time. They charged the migrants £10,000 ($13,000) each. The light plane, usually used for tourism, was a single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
Northern Calais is a major destination for migrants aiming to reach the UK. Normally, migrants hide in trucks that board ferries from France to Britain.
The local prosecutor’s office said that the case, involving flying migrants out of France, was unprecedented.
“This is the first time that we have come across attempted people-smuggling by plane” in the Calais region, prosecutor Philippe Sabatier said earlier this week, as cited by The Telegraph.
Prosecutor Raphaelle Wach said, “They were attracted by the money gain,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the men benefited from the misfortunes of others.
The prosecution earlier requested 42 months in prison and a fine of €50,000 for the men, according to Belga, as cited by RTL.
Buckley’s lawyer, Emmanuelle Osmont, however, said that the men were not exploiting the misery of others, because the migrants chose to pay for the flights themselves. The two men had a fast-track trial just days after they were detained.
When the two Brits have served their prison terms, they will be banned from entering French territory for five years, prosecutor Sabatier said, as cited by The Telegraph.
Green was arrested on Monday at the Marck aerodrome, just before he attempted to fly four Albanian passengers, one of them a three-year-old child. Buckley was detained near the aerodrome, where he was with his wife. She is not connected to the crime, police determined.
The sentence comes one day after three migrants – thought to be an Afghan, a Pakistani, and an Iranian – abandoned an attempt to reach the UK in a dinghy, and returned to France suffering from hypothermia.
Last weekend, another migrant was picked up by a yacht near Dunkirk. He was discovered on a raft he built from planks of wood and bottles.
Last October, the French authorities closed the infamous Jungle migrant camp near Calais, with a 10,000-strong migrant population.