Ujeza Kurmekaj, a 32-year-old woman from Albania, has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for her involvement in facilitating illegal immigration across the Channel. Her arrest took place at her residence in Banbury, Oxfordshire, in October 2022, following an investigation that uncovered a series of incriminating messages on her phone.
According to SKY, the examination of Kurmekaj's phone revealed a significant role in connecting smugglers with individuals seeking passage into the UK. Messages on her device included detailed instructions for smugglers in France, specifying who to collect and where. Examples include "we have here one family, man wife one child" which were accompanied by location pins indicating pick-up points. Other messages show challenging conditions, such as "family one 3 women children 14 17 12 years old" and warnings of a "very bad sea."
Furthermore, the investigation uncovered discussions where Kurmekaj made arrangements for families to cross the Channel. Disturbingly, her phone contained 21 images of Albanian IDs and passports. Subsequent verification revealed that nine of these individuals had successfully entered the UK via small boats.
Kurmekaj pleaded guilty to charges of facilitating illegal immigration on November 3, 2022, at Oxford Crown Court. Upon completing her prison term, she will face deportation to Albania.
Andy MacGill, the National Crime Agency's 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".
"She arranged payments of hundreds of euros per person, with no concern for the safety or security of the people she was arranging crossings for, only that she and her employers received payment," he said.
"Disrupting and dismantling organised crime groups responsible for people smuggling is a priority for the NCA and we'll continue to target offenders involved at every step of the journey," he added.
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