Lorry driver admits smuggling Afghan nationals through Harwich port

A POLISH lorry driver has admitted trying to smuggle 22 Afghan nationals through Harwich port hidden behind washing machines. The Home Office said Border Force officers discovered the people when they stopped a lorry, driven by Polish national Tomasz Cierniak, on February 2 last year. The 32-year-old had arrived at Harwich International Port on a ferry from the Hook of Holland.

Cierniak told officers that he was carrying electronic goods, and when the lorry’s rear doors were opened officers found washing machines and tumble dryers stacked three high and four across. Officers found 22 people, including five children, in a purposely created gap between the heavily loaded rear and the front of the trailer. During the investigation, it emerged the lorry Cierniak was driving had been branded with the name of a multi-national haulage company but that business had never owned it.

Checks also showed the company Cierniak, of no fixed UK address, was supposedly delivering the goods to has no dealings with the business he said he worked for. The Home Office said Cierniak admitted the offence at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday, and is set to be sentenced on Thursday at the same court. Rebecca Webb, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations Team, said: “The dangers of cramming this group into a small space behind a wall of heavy goods during a six hour ferry crossing are obvious, but Cierniak was content to put the lives of 22 desperate people at risk.

“People smuggling is a callous trade and those involved think nothing of treating human beings as commodities.” Following his initial arrest, Cierniak was bailed pending further investigation, but failed to report as required to Colchester Police Station. CFI officers obtained a European Arrest Warrant and on May 23 he was arrested by police officers in Italy.

He was extradited to the UK and remanded in custody.

Ms Webb added: “Cierniak thought he could evade justice, but we, along with our law enforcement partners in Europe, never stopped looking.”

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