A major people smuggling investigation is underway after a fishing boat carrying 69 Albanian migrants was intercepted off the coast of Great Yarmouth.
The 30m fishing vessel, which set off from Ostend in Belgium, was stopped by Border Force officials on Tuesday night.
It was then escorted into Harwich harbour in Essex, where the three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.
Three men have since been charged. Igor Kosyi, 56, and Volodymyr Mykhailov, 48, both from Ukraine, and Aleksandrs Gulpe, 43, from Latvia, appeared at Colchester Magistrates Court and have been remanded in custody.
The 69 migrants, all Albanian nationals, were also also arrested at the scene.
Over 250 officers from the National Crime Agency, Essex Police, Immigration Enforcement, and Border Force were involved in the operation.
“This was clearly a significant incident and a significant attempt to breach the UK’s border controls," NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Craig Naylor said.
"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.
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: "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."