Brixton chicken shop refugee, 57, who ‘ran trafficking ring smuggling Sri Lankans across the English Channel’ will be extradited to France

A refugee accused of smuggling fellow Sri Lankans across the English Channel into Britain will be extradited to France where he could be jailed for ten years.

Sathasivam Sivagankan, who lived in Colliers Wood, South West London, was granted asylum after he came to the UK in 2001 with his wife and two children.

The 57-year-old, who is part of the local Tamil community and worked in a fried chicken outlet in Brixton, returned to Sri Lanka in 2004 to 2005 despite conflict.

French prosecutors allege that Sivagankan is a leading member of international gang trafficking Sri Lankans to the UK, France and Switzerland. They are said to be coming from Romania, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Ukraine, Slovenia and Austria.

If convicted of people trafficking in France, Sivagankan faces ten years behind bars.

Chicken shop worker Sathasivam Sivagankan is pictured outside court in London last Friday

Sivagankan is allegedly linked by telephone evidence to a thwarted Channel crossing attempt on June 10, 2023.

He claimed he should not be extradited to France because he is caring for his wife, who has mental health issues, including a fear of enclosed spaces.

A judge had originally ordered his extradition in November 2022.

Sivagankan claimed at the time that he ‘was not aware of the investigation into me and others before I was arrested in the UK’.

His lawyers expressed concerns at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that his wife would be left without a carer if he was extradited.

Dr Mareike Suesse said: ‘She may not feel comfortable showing her vulnerability to others but of course that is based on what she has told me.

‘It is impossible to say how she would respond, again based on my experience of working with people with mental health problems, there are many people who have mental health problems that do not open up to them, that may or may not be the case with Mrs Sivagankan.

‘They (Mr and Mrs Sivagankan) were reluctant to be parted from each other, they both became more anxious at being parted for the assessment.

Sivagankan lived in a semi-detached property in Colliers Wood, South West London (file)

Sivagankan lived in a semi-detached property in Colliers Wood, South West London (file)

‘They seemed to lean to each other quite a lot for reassurance, it is possible this is the sign of an emotional co-dependence but I did not formally assess that.’

Matei Clej, representing Sivagankan, told the court: ‘The severity and the impact on her was amply shown in the evidence of Dr Suesse. The assessment and the description of it makes it clear this is a strong relationship and a strong bond.

‘There is no surrogate if I may put it that way in a married relationship of such duration. The real question is whether the extradition of her husband is going to have a severe psychological impact.

‘An extradition in this case is disproportionate, simply as she is in a worse position than she was.’

Mr Clej said Sivagankan has no previous convictions and has been in the UK for years.

Amanda Bostock, for the French authorities, said: ‘It is important to remind how serious the offending is, it is the kind of offending that can be met with a considerable sentence and has now been met with a significant sentence of five years imprisonment.

A file photograph of an inflatable dinghy carrying migrants over the English Channel on May 4

A file photograph of an inflatable dinghy carrying migrants over the English Channel on May 4

‘He can be adequately cared for himself in prison, his conditions could be managed in a custodial setting.

‘In terms of his wife, Dr Suesse did concede that it is difficult to analyse worsening of the conditions when she did not complete the earlier report.

‘Her account is that she has felt able to manage her mental health herself via herbal remedies, over the counter remedies and meditation.

‘Dr Suesse had evidence that she does gardening, cooking, cleaning, it is very different from the picture that was painted that she is effectively bed bound, she clearly is not. In any event, she is clearly someone who can care for herself if her husband is away.’

District Judge Daniel Sternberg rejected the arguments and ordered his extradition.

He said: ‘You appeared before me for extradition proceedings on May 9. I have rejected arguments raised on your behalf. I therefore formally order your extradition to France.’

Sivagankan, who appeared in court alongside several family members, appeared confused as the decision was dictated to him by an interpreter.

He remains on bail with conditions including £10,000 bail and a curfew ahead of his extradition to France.