Published: 16:21, 08 June 2021
| Updated: 18:13, 08 June 2021
A man living in Kent has been arrested in an investigation into the attempted smuggling of 69 Albanians into the UK.
The Latvian national, aged 39 and living in Tonbridge, was swooped on in East Sussex.
He was one of three men arrested today as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into the alleged offence using a fishing vessel.
The arrest at Lambeth
The arrests were in London and the South East and the other two taken in were a 34-year-old Lithuanian national living in Lambeth, south London, and a 32-year-old Israeli national living in Finchley, north London.
They are now being questioned on suspicion of attempting to facilitate illegal immigration.
The arrests follow the interception of the fishing boat Svanic off the coast of East Anglia on November 17 last year, as part of a joint operation involving the NCA, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force.
The boat had sailed from the Ostend area of Belgium and was carrying 69 Albanian passengers, who were offloaded in Harwich to be dealt with by the immigration authorities.
The three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration and were subsequently charged.
NCA regional head of investigation Jacque Beer said: “Those arrested today are suspected of having played a key role in the events which led up to the interception of the Svanic.
“This was a serious attempt to breach the UK’s border controls, and our investigation into that incident continues.
“But today’s activity once again demonstrates our determination to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling networks wherever they are operating. It is a key priority for the NCA.”
This is the latest episode in the issue of illegal immigration and the wider question of asylum seeking touching Kent.
Usually people come directly ot this county, landing in small boats in areas such as Kingsdown near Deal and Romney Marsh but most often they are rescued at sea by the Border Force and brought to Dover.
The Home Office has regularly told of its determination to stop people smuggling.
A spokesman said of the offence in general: "Criminal gangs are putting profits before people’s lives through these dangerous and unnecessary crossings.
“More than 4,000 people have been prevented from making the dangerous crossing so far this year and we are cracking down on the despicable criminal gangs behind people smuggling.
“Inaction is not an option whilst people are dying. The Government is bringing legislation forward through our New Plan for Immigration which will break the business model of these heinous people smuggling networks and save lives.”