A 21-year-old man has been jailed for attempting to smuggle migrants into the UK hidden inside sofas.
Iranian national Arman Yusuf Rahmani, who was granted asylum in Britain after entering in the back of a lorry, was caught trying to get people into the UK from France and Belgium.
He arranged for people to be concealed in the bases of sofas then transported overseas in the back of vans for hire in 2018 and 2019, Preston Crown Court heard.
It comes after news that the number of migrants crossing the English Channel has doubled year-on-year, according to The Independent.
More than 3,000 men, women and children have made the trip in small boats since January.
This represents an increase of around 1,400 people compared with the same period last year.
The rise crimes despite the government paying millions to ramp up security along the French coast as Priti Patel pledged to make the route “unviable”.
The home secretary recently told MPs in the Commons that those seeking to claim asylum must do so in the "first safe country" rather than try to reach the UK.
Rahmani was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison at Preston Crown Court after pleading guilty to breaking UK immigration law.
The court heard how Rahmani hired six different “man with van” drivers advertising their services on social media in 2018 and 2019.
Preston Crown Court heard he had established a criminal network to facilitate foreign nationals illegally entering the UK.
He agreed for them to drive from the UK to France or Belgium to collect and transport secondhand furniture to the UK.
Watch: Priti Patel vows reform of 'broken' immigration system
The drivers did not know people were hidden inside the items they had been paid to transport and were instructed not to help with loading the vehicles, the court was told.
Upon arrival at the UK border in France, Border Force officers searched the vans and quickly identified the migrants hiding inside.
The migrants, who were all aged 18 or under, claimed to be Iraqi nationals.
Video footage and photographs later taken of the hiding spots show that any plea for help from those in the back of the van would not have been heard.
Speaking after the sentencing, minister for immigration compliance and justice Chris Philp said: "Rahmani showed a blatant disregard for the laws of the UK, a country which provided him with safety and a place to live for which he has rightly paid the price.
"This case shows the lengths criminals will go to profit from our broken asylum system by putting people's lives at risk."
"We are aiming to step up prosecution of those smuggling people into the country which is why this government is bringing legislation through our New Plan for Immigration, breaking the business model of these heinous people-smuggling networks and save lives."
Katie Brown, a criminal and financial investigations investigator, said: "Today’s sentence is the result of an excellent investigation that brought an end to Rahmani’s pattern of criminality.
"People smugglers are motivated by money alone and show no regard for the safety of those they exploit.
"This case is a message that we never stop looking for those involved in immigration crime."
Rahmani will see out his sentence in the UK, after which he will be eligible for deportation as a foreign national offender.
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