Radio 2

UK hauls 69 migrants off trawler that sailed from Ostend

British police intercepted 69 migrants travelling on an old fishing boat from the West Flemish port of Ostend.  The 69 had hoped to make a new life for themselves in the country that doesn’t require the use of identity documents.

The migrants are all thought to be Albanian nationals.  They were hiding below decks when the authorities discovered them.

The trawler is believed to have left the port of Ostend on Tuesday evening. The migrants were discovered in the English Channel on Tuesday night. The vessel started its journey in Ostend and it’s thought the migrants boarded the aging trawler there.  West Flemish public prosecutors are on the case.

Belgian maritime police and the people-trafficking unit of the West Flemish section of the federal police are liaising with the UK’s National Crime Agency.

The trawler was taken to the port of Harwich in the East of England, where the migrants were taken off board and questioned.  The crew of two Ukrainians and one Latvian were arrested.  They are suspected of people-trafficking. 

A while ago the trawler was on sale in Riga, capital of Latvia.  It’s unclear whether it was purchased with the aim of trafficking migrants to the UK. 

West Flemish prosecutors say that this incident shows that all Belgian seaports can be targeted by people-traffickers: “We have known for many years that it’s tried via Zeebrugge, but leisure craft that sail in and out every day are also used.”

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