One person still unaccounted for after search off Harwich coast

One person is still unaccounted for off the coast of Harwich.

One person is still unaccounted for off the coast of Harwich. - Credit: Google Maps/PA

One person is reportedly still missing after a major search and rescue operation off the coast of Harwich.

Two men who were travelling in a small boat were rescued as part of the operation. Both are Somali nationals and it is understood they are now being processed within immigration rules.

Border Force and the coastguard helped rescue the men off the Essex coast on Monday afternoon.

However, an extensive search for a third man — involving the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Border Force and the RNLI — was called off at around 2pm on Tuesday afternoon.

The Home Office described the incident as a “reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats” and vowed they are “determined to do everything we can to prevent people dying in the Channel”.

A spokesman for the department said: “This afternoon, an extensive search and rescue operation for a man reported to have entered the water off the Essex coast concluded.

“We want to thank those who responded to this incident and who continue to work tirelessly to protect lives at sea whilst securing our border.

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“While the investigation into this incident continues, it is a reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and the callous disregard for life shown by the criminal gangs.

“We are determined to do everything we can to prevent people dying in the Channel.

“The government’s new plan for immigration, and ongoing work with the French government, will help us crackdown on organised criminals and reform the asylum system to deter people from attempting these deadly crossings.”

A Harwich lifeboat was launched at 4.05pm on Monday, returned and then launched again at 11.35pm, before going back to shore at 8am on Tuesday.

The RNLI said: “RNLI lifeboats from Harwich and Walton and Frinton were involved in a search and rescue operation to a suspected person in the water.

“All have been stood down by HM Coastguard, who are continuing to co-ordinate the search with Border Force.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said a Coastguard helicopter and a plane were sent to the incident, adding: “HM Coastguard has been co-ordinating a search and rescue response to an incident off Essex, working with Border Force and other partners.”

The search and rescue is not the the first time vessels out in the sea at Harwich have been brought to shore in a Border Force operation.

Three men are currently on trial at court accused of attempting to smuggle 69 Albanian nationals into the UK via a fishing trawler intercepted off the Essex coast last autumn.

Calls had previously been made to build more observation towers along the east coast in a bid to deter the number of people smugglers arriving in the UK.

On Tuesday, UK authorities rescued or intercepted 145 people in five incidents, while French authorities intercepted five events, preventing 137 people from reaching the UK, the Home Office said.

On Sunday, UK authorities rescued or intercepted 29 people and there were no French interceptions, the department added.

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