Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : French couple jailed for smuggling children inside furniture [September 2023]

The press release issued by the Home Office on 15 September 2023.

A French couple have been jailed for almost 10 years after they trapped Vietnamese migrants, including children, inside sofas to smuggle them into the UK.

Junior Toussaint and Andrene Paul, both from near Paris, were sentenced to a combined 9 years and 11 months at Hove Crown Court today after pleading guilty to assisting unlawful migration to the UK.

The pair had worked together as delivery drivers in France and used furniture to hide a Vietnamese woman and three children in the back of a hire van.

They had travelled from Dieppe to Newhaven Port in the early hours of 2 April this year.

Border Force officers became suspicious when they searched the van and saw movement from inside the adapted sofas, which were buried underneath a mattress and other furniture.

Shocking images taken at the time of the search show two migrants packed inside with no means of escape without assistance from the smugglers.

Others were hidden among other fixtures including a chest of drawers. One migrant was found crushed underneath a settee.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said:

This case is another shocking example of the sickening tactics used by criminals who will think nothing of trapping women and children in appalling conditions to illegally enter our country.

We are working night and day to stay one step ahead of the smuggling gangs and ensure they are swiftly brought to justice.

And our landmark Illegal Migration Act will decisively break their business model by removing the incentive to make a dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journey from the safety of France.

The defendants told officers they had no knowledge of the migrants’ presence in their van and had been driving it to help with furniture removal in London.

Fingerprint checks carried out by Border Force later proved Toussaint’s involvement in the smuggling attempt. He pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration.

Paul, who had also denied her involvement, was found to have made a series of suspicious visits to the UK earlier in the year. She pleaded guilty when video evidence of her previous activity was shown in court.

Chris Foster, Deputy Director of Criminal and Financial Investigations at the Home Office, said:

Criminals are going to increasingly extreme lengths to smuggle people across the UK border for profit due to our efforts to clamp down on them. This sentence today reflects the severity of their crimes.

Our teams save lives by identifying and intervening in smuggling attempts like this one. I want to thank my officers who work tirelessly to investigate those responsible and ensure they face the full weight of the law.