72 arrested after smuggled migrants found on fishing boat off Norfolk coast
- Credit: Archant
Seventy-two people have been arrested after a 30m fishing boat crammed with dozens of illegal migrants was stopped off the Norfolk coast.
More than 250 officers intercepted the boat, which contained 69 migrants from Albania, off the coast of Great Yarmouth on Tuesday evening (November 17).
Border Force cutters ‘Searcher’ and ‘Vigilant’ intercepted the boat before escorting the vessel into Harwich harbour in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Following the bust, three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.
The other 69 people, all Albanian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Immigration Act.
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A people smuggling investigation has also been launched.
The boat, which had travelled from Ostend area of Belgium, was caught off the coast following a joint operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), Immigration Enforcement and Border Force.
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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.
A search of the boat is still ongoing.
Craig Naylor, deputy director of investigation at the NCA, 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.”
Priti Patel, home secretary, said: “I’ve been clear that I’ll use every arm of the law to break up the ruthless gangs who facilitate this criminal activity.
“Yesterday’s operation was a big win for our intelligence and law enforcement agencies who have halted a serious illegal enterprise and cut off a source of funding for an organised criminal gang.
“We are unapologetically returning migrants who have no right to stay in the UK to safe countries with flights every week and will do whatever we can to make this route unviable.
“My thanks go to all our operational partners for their role in the important 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.”