By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2894

Rage after refugee jailed for ten years

Anti-racists must support the campaign to get Ibrahima released
Issue 2894
Ibrahima Bah (Picture: Kent Police)

Ibrahima Bah (Picture: Kent Police)

 
Jailed for trying to save lives. That’s the precedent the Tories have set after Ibrahima Bah, who piloted a boat across the English Channel in December 2022, received a decade-long prison sentence. 
 
During the treacherous crossing the small boat sank and four people drowned, with 39 surviving.  A disgraceful state prosecution saw a jury at Canterbury Crown Court find Ibrahima guilty of their deaths last week. 
 
He was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison, with convictions for manslaughter and facilitating a breach of immigration laws.
 
It’s the first time someone who navigated an inflatable dinghy has been found responsible for causing harm to others on a boat.
 
The Tories’ Nationality and Borders Act 2022 ramped up the punishment for people “facilitating” entry to Britain to criminalise people who steer boats. 
 
But those who steer the death-trap boats are themselves refugees trying to reach safety in Britain. 
 
Ibrahima, a Senegalese migrant, offered to steer the dinghy in exchange for a free crossing, according to the prosecution.
 
He said he was forced by smugglers, who assaulted him and threatened him with death, to make the journey.
 
The jury agreed with the prosecution and found him guilty by a majority of ten to two of manslaughter, and unanimously guilty of facilitating illegal entry.
 
A jury in a previous trial last summer was unable to reach a verdict.
 
But survivors corroborated Ibrahima’s version of events, and even claimed he saved their lives by steering the boat towards a fishing vessel and helping people onto it. 
 
Many of the refugees didn’t have lifejackets and the boat had no lights or safety equipment.
 
The overcrowded boat began filling with water after people stood up waiting to be rescued.
 
But Ibrahima is not responsible for the deaths. British and French coastguards failed to launch a rescue operation when they learnt of the boat’s distress. 
 
Only when a fishing vessel identified Dover coastguards—two hours after the first distress calls—did British border forces step in. 
 
Both the Tories and Labour point the finger at smugglers for Channel crossings. People smugglers’ business model is sustained by the lack of open and safe routes into Britain. 
 
Demonising refugees as “illegal” isn’t the way to stop them risking their lives crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane. 
 
But the Tories don’t care about lives—they care about scapegoating the most vulnerable people.
 
The courts worked hard to convict Ibrahima, and the Tories have been waiting for such a verdict. And regardless of the charges against Ibrahima, he, and no one else in a situation like him, is a criminal.
 
Open borders would stop the drownings and the need for small boats. It’s the Tories who are guilty of murder—and have blood on their hands.
 
Ibrahima is appealing against the sentence and needs full support. Opposing the attacks on refugees has to be a key part of the anti-racist movement.
 
Join Stand Up to Racism’s  national demonstrations on Saturday 16 March in London and Glasgow and Sunday 17 March in Cardiff. For details go to tinyurl.com/SUTRMarch16and17
 

‘Human rights? There are none here. There is no such thing as justice here’
The British state has convicted and jailed hundreds of people, including children and victims of trafficking and torture, for arriving in small boats to claim asylum.
 
A report No Such Thing As Justice Here from the University of Oxford found that between June 2022 and October 2023, 253 people received convictions under section 24 of the 1971 Immigration Act for illegal entry, and seven under section 25 for facilitation.
 
Those targeted were boat drivers, or those who previously made a visa application. Those travelling “illegally” face deportation, up to four years in prison, and limited rights in Britain. 
 
And the Tories expanded “facilitation” so that the maximum sentence is 14 years to life. 
 
In 2022, one person for every ten boats was arrested for their alleged role in steering. In 2023, this increased to one for every seven boats.
 
People have been identified as having their “hand on the tiller” for many reasons, including having boating experience, steering in return for discounted passage, taking it in turns, or being under duress.
 
Those arrested included people from countries with a high asylum grant rate, including Sudan, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea and Syria.
 
Ibrahim from Sudan was sentenced to 15 months for “illegal arrival” and “facilitation”. 
 
After he was arrested he said, “I am not guilty. I laugh when people say about justice in UK, about human rights.
 
“There are none here. There is no such thing as justice here.”
 
Humans for Rights Network also identified 15 children who border forces wrongly classed as adults —with 14 spending time in adult prison under the new charges.

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