Two deportees died when they jumped from a ferry in a desperate attempt to swim back to the UK shore after they had earlier been caught trying to smuggle themselves into Britain, an inquest has heard.
A major search involving 21 vessels and two helicopters was launched after Artur Doda, 24, and Leonard Isufaj, 27, both from Tirana, Albania, were seen jumping from one of the world’s largest ferries, the Stena Britannica, about 500 metres off Harwich, on 26 February last year.
They had been found in the back of a lorry along with 13 others after it was randomly selected for X-ray as it entered the port six hours earlier. They were then put back on a ferry to the Netherlands.
It is thought they were part of a group which had broken into the vehicle without the driver’s knowledge as part of an organised people-smuggling operation.
An inquest in Chelmsford yesterday heard that Mr Doda was sliced to death by the “machete-like” motion of the ship’s propeller and Mr Isufaj drowned. They were both sucked underwater almost immediately after jumping over the side, 10 minutes into the journey back to the Hook of Holland.
Inspector Christopher Willis, from Essex Police, said the sea would have appeared deceptively calm, instilling a false belief that it would be possible to swim to shore. “To swim to land with those tides and the water temperature would have been nigh-on impossible – an Olympic swimmer would have struggled,” he added.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Isufaj’s cousin, Besnik Vata, 33, from north London, said the case highlighted the plight of many immigrants. He said: “They had come to the UK for a better life and it seems they were determined to stay. We heard that they weren’t escorted on board the ship so there was always a risk this would happen – if I was in that position I would have done the same.
“There are lots of people in the same situation and they are just desperate. I think there should be better security to stop this happening because they’re not just immigrants, they are people too.”
A Border Agency official, Giles Young, said there was no policy of escorting deportees, adding: “It’s not a case of being marched on in handcuffs. Neither man offered any physical or verbal resistance.”