Ujeza Kurmekaj, a 32-year-old Albanian woman, has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed her involvement as a fixer for people smugglers. Kurmekaj was arrested at her residence in Banbury, Oxfordshire, in October 2022.
During the investigation, NCA officers discovered numerous incriminating messages on Kurmekaj’s phone, highlighting her pivotal role in connecting people smugglers with passengers. These messages included specific instructions on who to pick up, such as “family one: 3 women, children 14, 17, 12 years old,” and “we have here one family, man, wife, one child.” Additionally, messages indicated the challenging conditions, such as “very bad sea,” and even provided map locations for pick-up and boat positioning in the English Channel.
The investigation further revealed conversations where individuals contacted Kurmekaj to arrange illegal crossings for their families. Kurmekaj’s phone also contained 21 images of Albanian ID cards and passports, which, upon verification through immigration systems, confirmed that nine individuals had entered the UK through small boat crossings.
Kurmekaj was charged with facilitating illegal immigration in September and pleaded guilty to the charge at the Oxford Crown Court on November 3rd. She was subsequently sentenced at the same court on Friday, with automatic deportation awaiting her at the end of her prison term.
Andy MacGill, the NCA senior investigating officer, emphasised the significant role Kurmekaj played as a broker, connecting migrants with people smugglers who orchestrated perilous journeys across the English Channel. He noted that Kurmekaj arranged payments of hundreds of euros per person but displayed little concern for the safety and security of those she facilitated, instead focusing on her own financial gain and that of her employers.
MacGill emphasised the NCA’s commitment to disrupting and dismantling organised crime groups involved in people smuggling, stating that targeting offenders at every stage of the journey remains a priority for the agency.