UK Court Sentences French Duo for Smuggling Vietnamese Migrants Inside Furniture

Published: 19 September 2023

Moving TruckOne of the migrants was found crushed under furniture inside the van rented by the smugglers. (Photo: jill, jellidonut... whatever, Flickr, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

A U.K. court sentenced two delivery drivers of French nationality to nearly 10 years in prison for hiding a Vietnamese woman and three children inside furniture and smuggling them into the United Kingdom.

Junior Toussaint and Andrene Paul, from the vicinity of Paris, received a combined sentence of 9 years and 11 months from Hove Crown Court, in South-East England, on Friday after pleading guilty “to assisting unlawful migration to the U.K”.

In the early hours of April 2nd this year, the duo traveled from Dieppe — Northern France — to Newhaven Port in the U.K. Border Force officers grew suspicious when they noticed movement inside the modified sofas, which were buried under a mattress and other pieces of furniture.

Two migrants were found tightly packed inside the sofas, unable to escape without assistance from the smugglers. Others were hidden among different items, including a chest of drawers.

One migrant was found crushed beneath a settee.

“Criminals are going to increasingly extreme lengths to smuggle people across the U.K. border for profit due to our efforts to clamp down on them. This sentence today reflects the severity of their crimes,” said Deputy Director of Criminal and Financial Investigations at the Home Office, Chris Foster.

At first, the French pair denied any knowledge of the migrants hidden within the furniture. However, subsequent investigations conducted by U.K. authorities revealed their direct involvement.

Through fingerprint checks performed by Border Force, Toussaint's participation in the smuggling operation was conclusively established.

Similarly, Paul, who had initially denied any connection, was implicated when evidence of her suspicious visits to the U.K. earlier in the year was presented in court.

Consequently, she pled guilty thanks to video evidence shown at the courtroom.

In July 2023, The United Nations showed concern regarding the new law draft by the British government on tackling illegal immigration.

In a press release, United Nations experts called on the British Government to stop the implementation of the Illegal Migration Bill, a draft law aimed to detain and subsequently deport those who will enter the U.K. illegally and be “in line with international human rights standards to protect and uphold migrants’ rights.”

“Vulnerable people could be exposed to further harm and risks, including exploitation, trafficking including for purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation, arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The new policy is likely to fuel hostility, xenophobia and discrimination against migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees,” said United Nations’ experts.