A FISHING boat hiding 69 Albanian nationals on board has been intercepted by law enforcement agencies off the Norfolk coast and escorted into Harwich Harbour.

The migrants were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences and will be dealt with by Immigration Enforcement officers.

Three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of people smuggling and will be questioned by National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators.

The interception, off Great Yarmouth, was carried out on Tuesday evening as part of a joint operation involving the NCA, Immigration Enforcement and Border Force.

After the interception, the boat was accompanied into Harwich Harbour in the early hours of Wednesday morning, where those on board were escorted from the vessel.

Craig Naylor, NCA deputy director of investigations, said: “This was clearly a significant incident and a significant attempt to breach the UK’s border controls.

“Our investigation into this attempt continues, and I’d like to thank our partners at Essex Police, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement for all they did last night and their ongoing work in support of our investigation going forward.

“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.

“Our aim is to target those who cause harm, safeguard those who are most vulnerable while securing the United Kingdom’s borders.”

The operation at Harwich was assisted by Essex Police.

A search of the boat is still ongoing.