'despicable' | 

Two gangsters who smuggled over 40 Syrians through Dublin and Belfast jailed

It is estimated that the gang made more than £200k for facilitating the Syrian nationals over a 16-day period

Ahmad Omar

Mohamed Awad

Two gangsters who were involved in smuggling more than 40 Syrian nationals into the UK through Dublin and Belfast have be jailed.

Mohamed Awad (25) of London, was sentenced to two years and eight months at Laganside Crown Court, Belfast yesterday for his part in facilitating the unlawful immigration of 41 Syrian nationals.

His co-accused, Ahmad Omar (40) from Belfast, was jailed for two years in March for his role as a paid driver in the criminal organisation.

An investigation by the Home Office’s Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) unit revealed how the international smuggling gang they worked for were charging migrants around £5,000 per journey.

It is estimated that the gang made more than £200,000 for facilitating the Syrian nationals into the UK over a single 16-day period in November 2021.

The gang provided false identity documents and arranged flights from Belfast to Britain to facilitate the illegal entry of the migrants through abuse of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Awad who was the person responsible for arranging the flights, was described as a “highly trusted operator” within the organised crime group.

Awad, of Chaplin Road in London, was among three men arrested in March of last year as part of a major Home Office investigation.

At a previous court hearing, Prosecution barrister Connel Trainor said the authorities were alerted to an illicit operation where Syrian nationals paid to be smuggled across the continent.

Between November 2021 and February 2022 gang members provided the necessary identity documents, hotel accommodation and flight bookings.

A previous court heard more than 40 Syrians are believed to have been brought into Britain during one three-week period.

But Mr Trainor submitted: "This organised crime group is believed responsible for hundreds of facilitation events into the UK within a short period of time."

Mohamed Awad

Awad was first detained in November 2021 after arriving at Belfast International Airport on a flight from London Gatwick.

Police seized his phone, along with €5,500 and £1,000 in cash believed to be linked to criminal activity

The defendants both later pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration after they were arrested. A sum of £8,000 in cash and a Nissan Juke were also seized after officers from the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement, along with Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), carried out search warrants at addresses in Belfast and London on 10 March 2022.

The Cross Border Joint Agency Taskforce enables the British and Irish governments to work closely to disrupt organised crime groups and tackle organised immigration crime, modern slavery and human trafficking.

Ben Thomas, Deputy Director from the Criminal and Financial Investigation unit, said: “We are committed to dismantling people-smuggling networks, and will stop at nothing to bring them to justice.

“We would like to thank our policing partners in Northern Ireland who assisted us in this investigation. We will continue to work closely with them to save lives and ensure that people smugglers face the consequences of their despicable crimes.”

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