Total of 72 arrests as fishing boat carrying Albanian migrants intercepted near Suffolk coast
- Credit: NCA
Three men have been arrested on suspicion of people smuggling after a boatload of 69 Albanian nationals was intercepted near the Suffolk coast.
In total, UK law enforcement agencies arrested all 72 people on board a 30m fishing vessel sailing from the Ostend area of Belgium.
Border Force cutters ‘Searcher’ and ‘Vigilant’ intercepted the boat off Great Yarmouth and took it under control late on Tuesday, before escorting the vessel into Harwich harbour in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Three crew members; a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration and will be interviewed by National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators.
All 69 migrants were also arrested and will be investigated on suspicion of illegal entry to the UK.
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More than 250 officers from the NCA, Essex Police, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force were involved in taking control of the vessel and bringing it ashore.
The Harwich RNLI and coastguard teams were called out just before midnight, along with a police helicopter, spotted circling over Shotley marina, about 150ft above the sea from about 10.45pm.
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The NCA investigation is being supported by Essex Police, Immigration Enforcement, Border Force and Belgian authorities.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has thanked all operational partners for their role in the criminal investigation.
Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O’Mahoney said: “Thanks to the coordinated work between our partners at home and abroad we were able to quickly secure the vessel and a criminal investigation is now underway.”
NCA Deputy Director of Investigations, Craig Naylor said: “Our investigation into this attempt continues, and I’d like to thank our partners at Essex Police, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement for all they did last night and their ongoing work in support of our investigation going forward.
“Working with our partners we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling networks, and prevent them from exploiting migrants for profit.
“Our aim is to target those who cause harm, safeguard those who are most vulnerable while securing the United Kingdom’s borders.”