Iraqi Kurdish smuggler sentenced to four years in Spanish prison

Shwana Rafiq, a 36-year-old Iraqi Kurdish asylee in Spain, has been sentenced to prison for his leading role in a gang that hid Kurds in the back of refrigerated lorries to transport them to the United Kingdom. Rafiq confessed to arranging the transport of more than 100 people into the UK between 2017 and 2018, earning more than GBP 850,000. 

Originally, Spanish state prosecutors were seeking a 14-year prison sentence for Rafiq on charges related to money laundering and trafficking, but the sentence was reduced to four years as part of a guilty plea deal. 

Five other people linked to the smuggling gang, and Rafiq’s wife, were given prison sentences ranging from six months to two years, but these charges will be suspended because they have clean records in Spain. 

Rafiq and his group would break the locks on refrigerated lorries to let migrants in, so the drivers would be unaware that there were people in the back. Police were alerted to this gang after a family of six Iraqis, including four children, were found in the back of a lorry in France in 2017. The migrants had been screaming for hours to get the attention of the driver. 

A Spanish National Police spokesman said that “the gang was conscious of the risks these sorts of journeys entailed, and they acted with complete disdain for the lives and wellbeing of the people they were trying to smuggle into Britain.”

“The normal length of stay would be between 30 and 40 hours at temperatures of no more than four degrees Celsius,” he added, describing the conditions in the back of the lorries. 

Other smuggling gangs have used similar methods, often resulting in deaths, such as with the 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in a refrigerated truck in Essex in October. 

TMP 29/11/2019

Photo credit: Jevanto Productions

Photo caption: curtain side lorry truck on uk motorway in fast motion