Saturday, 2 Dec 2023

Migrant trafficker’s WhatsApp messages show how she smuggle people into Britain

An Albanian fixer facilitated a human trafficking scheme by sending WhatsApp messages to desperate migrants.

Hundreds of exchanges using the messaging platform were found on Ujeza Kurmekaj’s phone and unveiled her as a key part of the organisation, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The 32-year-old, was arrested at her home in Banbury, Oxfordshire, last October and was charged in September this year with facilitating illegal immigration.

She pleaded guilty to the charge at Oxford Crown Court on November 3 and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on Friday.

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“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 involved at every step of the journey.”

Last year 45,755 migrants crossed the Channel, up 60 per cent since 2021 when the figure was 28,526 and the highest number since figures began to be collected in 2018.

Since then, 100,000 people have come to the UK this way.

Once released from prison Ms Kurmekaj will be deported automatically.

Conversations referenced weather and travelling conditions including the ‘very bad sea’.

Another message said: “Family one 3 women children 14 17 12 years old”.

Map location pins provided instructions on where migrants could be met, or where boats were positioned in the Channel as she dealt with arrangements for Albanian nationals sailing to France.

Messages to individuals in France also discussed where crossings should be made from.

Her phone contained 21 images of Albanian ID cards and passports. Nine of these had arrived in the UK by small boat.

NCA senior investigating officer Andy MacGill 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.

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