The Daily Telegraph

Albanian who helped smuggle in hundreds of migrants jailed

- By Daily Telegraph Reporter

AN ALBANIAN fixer for people smugglers had “little interest” in the safety of migrants, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said as she was jailed for seven and a half years.

Ujeza Kurmekaj, 32, facilitate­d small boat crossings from France for Albanian nationals before her arrest last year as part of an NCA investigat­ion.

Hundreds of messages on her phone made clear her “key role” in linking people smugglers with passengers, the agency said.

She sent instructio­ns to contacts in France on who they should pick up, with messages such as “family one 3 women, children 14 17 12 years old” and “we have here one family, man wife one child”. Other conversati­ons indicated conditions, including “very bad sea”, and map location pins instructin­g where to pick migrants up or where boats were positioned in the Channel.

Further exchanges showed people making contact with her to arrange crossings for their families.

Her phone also contained 21 images of Albanian ID cards and passports which, when checked on immigratio­n systems, showed that nine of the individual­s had arrived in the UK by small boat. She was arrested by NCA officers at her home in Banbury, Oxfordshir­e, last October before being charged in September with facilitati­ng illegal immigratio­n. She pleaded guilty to the charge at Oxford Crown Court earlier this month before being sentenced on Friday, and will be deported automatica­lly on her release from prison.

Andy Macgill, NCA senior investigat­ing officer, said: “Ujeza Kurmekaj played a major role as a broker, linking migrants with people smugglers who could transport them on dangerous journeys across the Channel.

“For this, she would arrange payments of hundreds of euros per person.

“Kurmekaj had little interest in the safety and security of the people she was arranging crossings for, only that she and her employers received payment. Disrupting and dismantlin­g organised crime groups responsibl­e for people smuggling is a priority for the NCA and we’ll continue to target offenders at every step of the journey.”

‘She played a major role, linking migrants with people smugglers who could transport them’

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