Two men who smuggled 31 Iraqi migrants, including children as young as one, into Britain in the back of hired vans have each been jailed for seven years.
Akan Brayan and Dylan Shwani, both 37, paid drivers to hide people inside vehicles carrying various goods into the country on six separate occasions.
People including a pregnant woman and young children were found crammed into air-tight spaces, sometimes among huge stacks of tyres, furniture and household products.
Immigration enforcement officials found paprika strewn across the floor of one of the vans in a bid to throw sniffer dogs off the scent.
Brayan, of Nottingham, and Shwani, of Lincoln, were each found guilty of assisting unlawful immigration in relation to the journeys between 2016 and 2018.
Vans were intercepted by Border Force and French law enforcement officers including in Coquelles, France and Dover.
It is understood five van drivers have previously been convicted for their roles in the smuggling operation.
Brayan and Shwani were branded “evil” and “callous” after each being sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment at Nottingham Crown Court.
Shocking photos showed a woman cradling a small child, with other youngsters huddled around her in the tightly enclosed space, in one of the vans.
Immigration minister Tom Pursglove MP said: “These brazen attempts to smuggle illegal migrants, including very young children, into the UK in tiny, air-tight spaces with room to barely move, is despicable.
“Our expertly trained officers continue to work round the clock to prevent this illegal activity, which puts lives in extreme danger.”
The minister branded people smugglers “callous criminals” while Ben Thomas, deputy director for Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) said they were “evil”.
Brayan and Shwani were convicted following a five-year investigation by the CFI.
“My team work tirelessly to bring to justice anyone attempting to smuggle people unlawfully into the country,” Mr Thomas said.
“These two evil men endangered the lives of people, including children, to line their pockets without a care in the world for their safety.
“I hope these sentencings sends a powerful message that breaking the law and putting individuals’ lives at risk will not go unpunished.”