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Protest planned over Channel deaths conviction of asylum seeker boat pilot

Campaigners are expected to protest against the conviction of an asylum seeker for the manslaughter of his fellow migrants who drowned trying to cross the English Channel.

Ibrahima Bah, who is over 18, was found guilty of killing four migrants while seeking passage from France to the UK in an “unseaworthy” dinghy he piloted on December 14 2022.

During a retrial at Canterbury Crown Court, Bah said smugglers threatened to kill him if he did not pilot the boat, but the prosecution said he was not telling the truth and he owed his fellow passengers a “duty of care” as their pilot.

Jurors reached a majority verdict of 10 to two in what is believed to be the first conviction of its kind.

The Senegalese national will be sentenced on Friday.

Following the verdict on Monday, Captain Support UK, a solidarity platform for those accused of driving boats to Europe, said Bah’s conviction was a “violent escalation in the persecution of migrants to ‘Stop the Boats’”.

Posting on X, the group said: “Join us to protest the unjust conviction of Ibrahima Bah, the teenage survivor of the 2022 channel shipwreck, and to stand in solidarity with all those incarcerated and criminalised for seeking freedom of movement.”

Supporters of Bah will attend the sentencing at Canterbury Crown Court at 2pm, followed by a demonstration planned outside the Home Office in London at 6pm.

National charity the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants also encouraged people to take part in the call to action.

The refugee and migrants justice campaigners said on X: “We stand in solidarity and rage with Ibrahima Bah.

“Instead of condemning this young man, the blame for deaths in the Channel should be placed squarely where it lies – with this government’s hateful policies that make it impossible for people to come to this country safely.”

Bah was also found unanimously guilty of facilitating illegal entry to the UK.

Reacting to the verdicts, illegal immigration minister Michael Tomlinson posted on X: “Ibrahima Bah put dozens of lives in extreme danger by taking charge of a perilous and illegal small boat crossing. It is right that he has been brought to justice today.

“Once you get into a small boat, criminal gangs don’t care whether you live or die.”

The conviction comes as a French refugee charity announced it was taking legal action against the British Coastguard and other French agencies over the response to the sinking dinghy on December 14 2022.

Utopia 56 said it has filed the complaint of involuntary manslaughter and failure to provide assistance by French and British emergency services to the Boulogne-sur-Mer public prosecutor’s office in France.

In a statement on February 6, spokesperson Nikolai Posner said: “The authorities are constantly seeking to clear customs, while these tragedies, like the existence of mafia networks, are the direct consequences of public action at the border.

“If we file a complaint today, it is with the hope of never having to do so again.”

The charity said it has submitted allegations against the maritime prefect of the Channel and North Sea and directors of His Majesty’s Coastguard and Cross de Gris-Nez.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency does not routinely comment on legal matters.

A spokesperson said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of those who were lost on December 14 2022.

“The Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the events of that tragic incident is yet to be published and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.”