A MAN has been jailed for smuggling seven migrants over the UK border in Harwich.

Valeriu Iordatii, 24, attempted to enter the UK on a ferry from the Hook of Holland to Harwich on December 16 last year.

Border Force officers at Harwich International Port searched his Citroen van and found six Vietnamese nationals and one Syrian squeezed into the sleeping compartment.

The Romanian national claimed he had no idea the compartment was crammed full of people, despite its location being directly above his head.

Gazette: Van - the compartment was above the cabVan - the compartment was above the cab (Image: Homes Office)

He was jailed for three years for facilitation and illegal entry into the UK at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday.

Minister for illegal migration, Michael Tomlinson, said: “People smugglers don’t care if their passengers live or die, as long as they pay.

“Our message is clear – if you put lives at risk, you will face the full weight of the law and we will ensure you leave the UK as soon as possible.”

Iordatii claimed a chance encounter with an old friend under the Eiffel Tower led to arrangements for him to work in the UK delivering furniture in the van, which he collected from a petrol station before heading for the port.

Gazette: Van - the compartment was above the cabVan - the compartment was above the cab (Image: Home Office)

Two of the migrants claimed asylum upon entry, while the remaining five did not claim asylum, were deemed illegal entrants, and were immediately returned to the Netherlands, the Home Office said.

Iordatii will now be treated as a foreign national offender and could be removed from the UK after referral to the Home Office.

Chris Foster, deputy director of criminal and financial investigations at the Home Office, said: “This shocking case shows that people smugglers are going to increasingly extreme lengths to make their money.

“If anything had happened on that ferry, seven people would have been unaccounted for and trapped.

“The sentence shows that those who abuse our borders and our laws will be caught and will face justice and then, where possible, be removed from the country.”