Seven Albanians in court after boat and 72 migrants seized off Yarmouth

Seventy two people were arrested following a people smuggling bust on a fishing boat intercepted off

Seventy two people were arrested following a people smuggling bust on a fishing boat intercepted off Great Yarmouth. Picture: NCA - Credit: Archant

Seven Albanian nationals have appeared in court after a fishing boat containing 69 migrants was intercepted off Great Yarmouth.

UK law enforcement agencies arrested all 72 people on board a 30m fishing vessel sailing from the Ostend area of Belgium, including three crew on suspicion of people smuggling, on Wednesday morning.

A Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.

Border Force cutters 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 the following morning.

Seven men appeared before Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, charged with knowingly entering the United Kingdom without leave, under the Immigration Act 1971.

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Ledjan Lleshi, 29, Eneert Vezi, 29, Ergi Gremi, 23, Erest Gjika, 19, and Kristian Paplekaj, 27, all appeared on video link from Martlesham Heath police investigation centre and entered guilty pleas to the charge.

Prosecutor Colette Harper said: “The vessel was attempting to enter the UK unnoticed when it was intercepted.”

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She said the other defendants were due to appear at other courts across the region on the same day.

David Allan, representing the five as duty solicitor, said all accepted intending to enter the country unlawfully, without an appropriate visa, due to “economic and financial circumstances resulting in fairly extreme hardship”.

He said none of the men were able to pay any financial penalty or undertake any form of community order, adding: “In reality, whatever sentence you impose, upon release, they will be detained by immigration services in any event.

“I urge you to take a pragmatic view and impose the minimum sentence possible to avoid overburdening the prison service.”

All five men were sentenced to eight-week custodial sentences.

Two other men, aged 35 and 27, represented by Imran Rashid, entered no pleas to the charge, pending referrals to the national mechanism for identifying victims of modern slavery.

Both were released on bail to an immigration facility until a hearing on January 19.

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