Home Office wrongly charged 69 Albanians with entering Britain illegally – despite fact they did not reach UK

Home Office officials wrongly charged 69 people with entering the UK illegally when they had not reached the country, it has emerged.

At least five men were jailed for a crime they did not commit as a result of the error, and will now have their convictions quashed.

The Albanian nationals were on board a fishing boat intercepted off the coast of Great Yarmouth on 17 November.

The vessel, sailing from Ostend in Belgium, was the target of a joint operation involving the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement unit, Border Force and the National Crime Agency.

All 72 people on board were arrested after two Border Force ships escorted the boat to Harwich harbour.

The interception at sea and immediate detention means they had not entered the UK or committed a crime under the Immigration Act, but Immigration Enforcement prosecuted 69 passengers using the law.

On Wednesday, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that it was stopping proceedings against the passengers because the case failed on evidential grounds.

At least five men had already pleaded guilty to entering the UK illegally and been jailed. Their convictions will be returned to court to be quashed.

The three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainians, have been charged with facilitating illegal immigration.

A spokesperson for the CPS said: “Following the interception of a fishing vessel off the East Anglian coast last month, we have authorised charges against three people for facilitating illegal entry to the UK.

“After careful consideration, we have decided our legal tests for prosecution were not met in relation to the 69 passengers. Proceedings commenced by Immigration Enforcement will therefore be discontinued and any convictions returned to court.”

The offence of illegal entry is not known to have been used in such circumstances before and can only apply to people who reach land.

The Immigration Act states that people are not deemed to have entered the UK “unless and until he disembarks” and leaves a port.

It adds: “A person who has not otherwise entered the United Kingdom shall be deemed not to do so as long as he is detained.”

All 72 people on board the fishing vessel were arrested and detained immediately in Harwich, in an operation supported by Essex Police.

At a hearing at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court two days later, five passengers who pleaded guilty to unlawful entry were jailed for two weeks.

The Eastern Daily Press reported that defence solicitor David Allan said they came to Britain due to “economic and financial circumstances resulting in fairly extreme hardship”.

The court heard that two other passengers may be passed to the national referral mechanism for identifying victims of modern slavery.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.