FEARS have been raised about traffickers using a busy ferry route after a man was threatened with a gun and forced to smuggle two men to Portsmouth.
French national Issa Kebe was jailed after being caught with two people in his car boot.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard he was warned his family would be blasted with a gun unless he carried out the operation.
The people smuggler was found with two Sri Lankan asylum seekers at Portsmouth port after travelling by ferry from Caen to pay off a €7,000 gambling debt to French gangsters.
Kebe was sent to prison for three years for helping asylum seekers enter the UK at Portsmouth Crown Court. He had pleaded guilty to the offence at an earlier hearing.
The 33-year-old was stopped at passport control in Portsmouth after coming over in a hire vehicle on January 14. He was asked to show his identification before a check was carried out on the car when the discovery was made.
The incident marks a trend of people smuggling taking place through Portsmouth as authorities battle to get a grip on the problem.
The court heard how Kebe had got into financial strife after his gambling addiction spiralled out of control.
Unable to pay off his debt he was given an ultimatum to carry out a people smuggling voyage to ‘wipe the slate clean’ or face the grim reality of his family being exterminated.
‘He was given a solution to pay off his gambling debt after meeting with a man a week before the smuggling took place,’ defence barrister Giles Bedloe said.
‘The man threatened him and said he didn’t mind if someone was to disappear before saying he would turn up at his parents’ house. He then lifted up his shirt and showed him an air gun.
‘Mr Kebe felt he could not possibly put his family in danger. He knew he was committing an illegal act but felt he had no choice but to do it. He only did it to pay off the debt.
‘The two men were total strangers to Kebe – I’m not sure he even knew they were asylums seekers.’
Mr Bedloe added: ‘There was limited planning and sophistication in this case compared with commercial operations where there are plans to import many people into the country. This was cobbled together.’
Judge Michael Vere-Hodge QC said: ‘There is increasing concern about the number of people being smuggled into this country.’