Charges dropped against migrants found off Suffolk coast

Border Force cutters Searcher and Vigilant intercepted the vessel, a 30-metre fishing boat Picture:

Migrants found off the coast of Suffolk will not be charged - Credit: NCA

Prosecutors have dropped charges against 69 migrants who were arrested after a fishing boat was intercepted close to the coast of Suffolk. 

The Albanian nationals were charged by Home Office officials with entering the UK illegally, but had not reached the country when the boat was intercepted.

It is understood they were charged once the vessel had been brought to shore by Border Force.

Three men who were on the vessel have been charged with people-smuggling offences.

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesperson said: "Following the interception of a fishing vessel off the Essex coast last month, we have authorised charges against three people for facilitating illegal entry to the UK.

"After careful consideration, we have decided our legal tests for prosecution were not met in relation to the 69 passengers.

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"Proceedings commenced by Immigration Enforcement will therefore be discontinued and any convictions returned to court."

Five of the migrants had already been sentenced to eight-week prison sentences after admitting at Ipswich Magistrates' Court to knowingly entering the UK without leave.

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The vessel had set off from Ostend, Belgium, and was intercepted off the coast of East Anglia.

Border Force cutters escorted it into Harwich harbour in Essex in the early hours of November 18, the National Crime Agency said.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The successful Border Force operation off the Essex coast last month led to charges against three people for facilitating illegal entry to the UK and the seizure of a valuable fishing vessel.

"We are pleased that the CPS have authorised these facilitation charges.

"We are disappointed that the proceedings against the 69 people charged with illegal entry will be discontinued and we are working with the CPS urgently to resolve the issues raised by this case.

"The immigration cases will be dealt with as quickly as possible and removal action will be pursued against anyone found to have no right to remain in the UK.

"Knowingly entering the UK without leave is a criminal offence and anyone who has committed such an offence should be prepared to face prosecution."

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