A Bromley man has been jailed after he tried to smuggle 39 migrants, including a six-year-old boy, out of the UK in the back of a lorry. 

Houcine Argoub, 32, of High Street in Bromley, worked with Moroccan national Jamal Elkhadir to carry out the smuggling operation. 

In September 2023 they met in a layby near Sandwich in Kent. 

Officers saw Argoub park a van next to Elkhadir’s Moroccan registered lorry and a number of people were seen to climb from Argoub’s van into the back of the lorry. 

National Crime Agency (NCA) officers intercepted the lorry, which could only be opened from the outside, when it arrived at the docks in Dover. 

Officers found 39 North African migrants in the back, including a family travelling with their six-year-old son and a teenage girl. 

Elkhadir was arrested at the dock but Argoub was arrested at his home in Bromley two months later. 

News Shopper: Jamal ElkhadirJamal Elkhadir (Image: NCA)

Elkhadir claimed he had been delivering cherry tomatoes to businesses in the UK and had stopped for a rest break with the doors unlocked in the layby. 

He then claimed he had been threatened at gunpoint to transport migrants to France. 

But both men pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration when they appeared at Canterbury Crown Court on Wednesday (March 13). 

Both Elkhadir and Argoub pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration when they appeared at Canterbury Crown Court on March 13.

Elkhadir was sentenced to six years and nine months imprisonment and Argoub received a prison sentence of five years and three months. 

NCA operations manager John Turner said: “Elkhadir and Argoub were partners in this criminal enterprise to move migrants through the UK and smuggle them to France. 

“Their only concerns were about the money they were making and how they could avoid detection, not for the safety of those hiding in the back of the HGV. 

“This form of criminality not only puts people at risk, it also threatens the border security of both the UK and France, which is why the NCA works closely with partners here and overseas to tackle those facilitating illegal migrants in each direction.”

"The same criminals who take people out of the UK illegally often bring them in too, which is why we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the networks involved in people smuggling."