Four asylum seekers who crossed the English Channel to the UK in small boats have managed to have their conviction for immigration offences revoked, with the UK's Court of Appeal acknowledging a lack of proof that they intended to illegally enter the country.
The asylum seekers – three Iranians and one Kuwaiti – were all accused of steering the dinghies they were put on during their journey to Britain across the English Channel from France, in separate incidents in 2019 and 2020.
The Iranians consist of Samyar Bani, who was jailed for six years in 2019, Ghodratallah Zadeh, who imprisoned for two years last year, and Fariboz Rakei, who was sentenced to four and a half years in March after being recorded steering his dinghy.
The Kuwaiti is Mohamoud Al-Anzi, who was sentenced to three years and nine months in February after being accused of steering a boat carrying 11 others.
The UK's Home Office, led by the controversial Home Secretary Priti Patel, labelled the dozen asylum seekers and others in their position as human traffickers and smugglers – criminals who the government aims to curtail and prosecute.
The prosecuted asylum seekers denied that accusation, insisting that their intentions were not to smuggle migrants but to make it safely to land after being left to operate the dinghies by the smugglers they paid.
After it was reported in November that 12 asylum seekers had launched a fight against their convictions, the Court of Appeal finally ruled in favour of the four individuals on the basis that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that they intentionally smuggled others into the country and tried to enter illegally.
For Bani, in particular, the court acknowledged that the jury in his case had wrongly told him he had broken the law upon entering British waters. Instead, the judge said that it depended on whether one intends to land illegally outside of a port area.
"If landing on a beach…then it would be open to the jury to conclude the helmsman assisted an unlawful entry even if the boat was ultimately intercepted," the judge stated. "If, on the other hand, the facilitator knows the only way in which the migrant intends to enter the United Kingdom is being brought ashore by UK Border Force, then he will not be committing an offence."
Following the four asylum seekers' victory, their status of their stay within the country is not yet known. Bani, however – as a convert to Christianity and allegedly no longer safe in Iran – is reportedly now waiting for the Home Office to decide on his asylum claim.