A man involved in a scheme to facilitate illegal immigration into Ireland has been jailed for five years.
Mohamed Morsy Ahmed (54) pleaded guilty to six counts of facilitating the entry into the state of people who may be illegal immigrants on February 19th, 2021, at Dublin Airport.
Detective Garda Justin Gavin told Sean Smith BL, prosecuting, that Morsy Ahmed arrived at Dublin Airport on a flight from Lisbon on the day in question.
He was stopped by a customs officer as he did not have any checked luggage. Ireland was in a Level 5 Covid-19 lockdown at that time, and only travel for essential business was permitted.
When asked about the purpose of his trip, Morsy Ahmed said he was in Ireland to buy and sell car parts. Morsy Ahmed's bags were searched by customs officers, and 12 refugee travel documents and 12 resident permission documents, all genuine, were found.
Det Gavin said seven of the refugee documents were from Greece and five were from Germany, suggesting that the individuals had obtained international protection in these countries.
Passports from Yemen and Poland were also found. The passport from Yemen was genuine, but the Polish passport had been altered and had the same photo as the one on the Yemeni passport.
Morsy Ahmed said he found the documents on a plane but did not say where. Gardaí did not believe this story, the court heard.
Separately, 13 passengers from the same flight presented themselves at immigration control at Dublin Airport. They had no travel documents and applied for international protection.
This group of 13 passengers included a family of six with four children, a family of five adults and two single adults. Immigration officials determined that none of the 13 individuals had the travel documents or visas required to enter the state.
The travel documents found on Morsy Ahmed were subsequently matched to these 13 individuals.
Vital cog in operation
Sentencing Morsy Ahmed on Friday, Judge Patricia Ryan said he was a vital cog in the operation. She sentenced him to five years in prison and backdated it to February 2021, when he went into custody.
The group of immigrants was taken to a reception centre to begin the asylum application process. Det Gavin said contact was lost with the 13 passengers the day after they arrived in Ireland.
Morsy Ahmed was arrested but was initially deemed unfit for interview.
During the interview, Morsy Ahmed told gardaí that he had moved to Spain in the early 1990s and lives in Santander. He said he works as a market trader and had come to Ireland looking to trade car parts.
He said he travelled to Dublin via Madrid and Lisbon. Morsy Ahmed initially denied receiving the travel documents but later told gardai that he had been approached by another person to play a role in the scheme.
Det Gavin said Morsy Ahmed was valuable to this individual as he has an EU passport and can travel freely in the EU.
Morsy Ahmed's role was to collect the travel documents from a nominated member of the group before they all boarded the flight. Morsy Ahmed was supposed to send the documents to the organiser on his return to Spain to allow these to be recirculated.
These refugee travel documents allow the holder to move within the Schengen Area, which does not include Ireland.
Det Gavin said once these migrants arrived in Ireland, they would be collected and taken to the United Kingdom via Northern Ireland.
There was no evidence that Morsy Ahmed was involved in this part of the scheme. The accused said he was facing financial pressures and was paid €500 for his role.
Det Gavin said Morsy Ahmed told gardaí that the people travelling paid €1,500 each, and there is no suggestion that the people in this group were illegally trafficked to Ireland.
He added that Morsy Ahmed provided information, which has been passed to their international colleagues. Morsy Ahmed has eight previous convictions in Spain.
Det Gavin agreed with the defence counsel that his client was useful to the scheme due to his Spanish passport. Det Gavin accepted that Morsy Ahmed told gardai he would be paid €500. However, he said gardai believed he would be paid more, and this was an attempt to minimise his role.
In mitigation, defence counsel handed in a letter from Morsy Ahmed's son.
His client is a father of five, and his family have faced difficulties since he entered custody. His client has a number of health issues, and a medical report was provided to the court.
He said his client was the one who “took the risk”, but this was not for a “huge financial reward”.
Counsel said the group of 13 wanted to “change their situation” and were economic migrants looking to travel to the UK.
His client had been working as a market trader but was not a person of means. The defence counsel asked for as much leniency as possible for his client.