Illegal Immigrant Who Skippered ‘Death Trap’ Boat Across Channel Jailed for 9 Years

An illegal immigrant has been jailed for manslaughter after piloting a dinghy that sank in the English Channel leading to the loss of four lives.
Illegal Immigrant Who Skippered ‘Death Trap’ Boat Across Channel Jailed for 9 Years
Ibrahima Bah appearing by video link from Elmley prison at Folkestone Magistrates' Court in Folkestone, Kent, on April 13, 2023. (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Chris Summers

An illegal immigrant from Senegal who agreed to pilot an “unseaworthy” dinghy across the English Channel has been jailed for nine years for manslaughter after four of his passengers drowned when the boat sank.

Ibrahima Bah, whose exact age is unknown, was found guilty on Monday of facilitating illegal entry to the UK and four counts of manslaughter following a retrial at Canterbury Crown Court.

On Friday he was sentenced at the same court to nine years and six months for each manslaughter conviction and four years for facilitating illegal entry to the UK. All of the sentences will run concurrently.

The judge, Mr. Justice Johnson, said Bah’s exact age was unknown but he believed him to be at least 20.

Bah, who is from Senegal, will be eligible for release subject to licence conditions, after he has served two-thirds of his sentence.

It is not clear if he will be deported after serving his sentence, or will have a right to claim asylum.

The trial heard the home-made inflatable was very poor quality and was not seaworthy enough to carry the 43 migrants who scrambled on board it on the French coast.

Judge Says Boat Was ‘Death Trap’

Mr. Justice Johnson said: “The boat was wholly inadequate, and not remotely seaworthy for a Channel crossing. It was a death trap, just as every boat of its type which sets off across the Channel in similar circumstances is a death trap, the fact that in many cases fatalities do not occur is not remotely reassuring.”

“What happened is an utter tragedy for those who died and for their families,” he added.

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson, KC, told the jury Bah owed the others on the boat a “duty of care,” having agreed to pilot it across the Channel in exchange for the Kurdish people traffickers who owned the boat waiving his fee.

Mr. Atkinson told jurors there were insufficient life jackets on board the dinghy and no flares or radio and Bah had no training and scant experience on fishing boats in Senegal.

Bah told the court he had left Senegal in 2019 and was trying to get to Britain to claim asylum, although it was unclear what reason he planned to give to the authorities.

Although it has recently undergone political turbulence Senegal was, at the time, a democratic country with no record of human rights abuses.

Bah travelled from Senegal to Mali, Algeria and then Libya and then crossed by boat to Italy.

Witnesses said Kurdish people traffickers transported the migrants to the shore in three cars and then inflated the boat, which had been brought in another vehicle.

The court heard the boat got into trouble 30 minutes after leaving the French coast, but instead of turning back, Bah kept going.

The crew on a British fishing boat, the Arcturus, came across the sinking dinghy and tried to rescue the passengers with help from the RNLI, air ambulance, and UK Border Force.

The 39 survivors were brought to shore in the port of Dover, and the exact number of migrants who drowned is unknown, although it was at least four.

Identities of 3 Dead Migrants Still Unknown

The trial heard one of the dead migrants was called Hajratullah Ahmadi, but the identities of the other three remain unclear. All were men.

After Bah was convicted Michael Tomlinson, the illegal immigration minister, wrote on social media platform X: “Ibrahima Bah put dozens of lives in extreme danger by taking charge of a perilous and illegal small boat crossing. It is right that he has been brought to justice today. Once you get into a small boat, criminal gangs don’t care whether you live or die.”

PA Media contributed to this report.
Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.
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