DESTINATION UK: 72 arrest after fishing boat full of Albanians stopped off coast near Great Yarmouth
SEVENTY two people have been arrested after a fishing boat was intercepted off the coast of East Anglia, prompting a people smuggling investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
An NCA spokesman said: "Acting on information received, and as part of a joint operation involving the NCA, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force, the Border Force cutters Searcher and Vigilant intercepted the vessel, a 30-metre fishing boat, off the coast of Great Yarmouth on the evening of 17 November.
"It had sailed from the Ostend area of Belgium.
"The boat was accompanied into Harwich harbour in the early hours of this morning (18 November), where those on board were escorted from the vessel."
The three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration and will now be interviewed by NCA investigators.
The other 69 people, all Albanian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Immigration Act and will now be dealt with by Immigration Enforcement officers.
The operation at Harwich was assisted by Essex Police.
A search of the vessel is still ongoing.
NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Craig Naylor said: “This was clearly a significant incident and a significant attempt to breach the UK’s border controls.
“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.”