LONDON: A group of migrants who were imprisoned in the UK for steering dinghies across the English Channel are staging a bid to have their convictions overturned, The Independent newspaper has reported.
The group, comprised of 12 people, were labeled people smugglers and were prosecuted for aiding illegal migration.
However, in the wake of a landmark case won by an Iranian asylum seeker in April, the 12 men have decided to fight their convictions through the England and Wales Court of Appeal.
Lawmakers will host special court sessions next month to stage legal arguments over four of the 12 cases. The rulings handed down in the four cases will apply to the remainder of the cases.
Three of the cases involve migrants from Iran, while the fourth relates to a Kuwaiti citizen.
Iranian Samyar Bani, who was prosecuted in June 2019 and jailed for six years, will have his case considered first. His lawyer said: “This is a situation I have never heard of before. He is as much of a victim as others who have found their way to our shores.”
Aiding in an unlawful migration is typically a charge leveled against smugglers who receive substantial payments, including truck drivers.
A Court of Appeal judgment earlier in the year made available a defense for asylum seekers guiding small vessels who were found guilty of the charge.
It came after Fouad Kakaei, an asylum seeker, had his conviction overturned during a retrial.
Kakaei said that he had “taken turns” steering the dinghy with other migrants “because their lives were at risk.”
Following his case, the Crown Prosecution Service issued new rules meaning that asylum seekers would not be charged for steering boats if the “sole intention is to be intercepted and brought into port for asylum claims to be made.”