One of three men arrested for people smuggling has been charged after RIB carrying suspected migrants is rescued in English Channel

2 February

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has confirmed Afrim Xhekaliu, aged 40, of Leicester Road, Barnet, who was on the RIB that was rescued in the English Channel earlier this week, has been charged with assisting illegal entry. He will appear via video link today at Brighton Magistrates Court.

The RIB was carrying eight men and one woman and the passengers were taken by lifeboat to Eastbourne harbour.

A second man, who was also on board the boat, was questioned but no further action has been taken against him and he is now being dealt with by Immigration Enforcement.

A third man arrested by NCA officers in Crawley on Wednesday evening was questioned and has been released under investigation.

The men were arrested on suspicion of people smuggling offences by NCA officers after a RIB carrying a group of suspected migrants had to be rescued in the English Channel, 26 miles from Sovereign Harbour.

Eastbourne lifeboat brings abandoned rib into Sovereign Harbour Credit: RNLI/Bob Jeffery

Eastbourne lifeboat brings the abandoned RIB into Sovereign Harbour. Credit:
RNLI/Bob Jeffery

The other occupants of the rescued RIB – six men and the woman – are all believed to be Albanian nationals and are being dealt with by Border Force.

Martin Grace, NCA senior investigating officer, said: “This incident demonstrates the dangers associated with attempts to cross the Channel in this manner, and it is extremely fortunate that all those on this vessel were able to be recovered safe and well.

“An investigation is underway and we are working closely with Border Force and Immigration Enforcement.”

January 31

Nine people on an open RIB were rescued in the middle of the English Channel by Eastbourne and Dungeness lifeboats after the boat got into difficulties

The casualties had been adrift all night in severe weather conditions when they were rescued. The RNLI reported that the passengers on board were in need of urgent medical assessment.

The Eastbourne and Dungeness lifeboats assisted in the rescue, which took place 26 miles east of Sovereign Harbour. It has not been confirmed why the nine people on board were at sea.

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Earlier in the day, Dungeness and Dover lifeboats, along with coastguard rescue helicopter 163 were tasked to search for the RIB in the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel.

The RIB and its passengers had got into difficulties and had been adrift all night in severe weahter conditions. The RNLI eventually located them 26 miles off Sovereign Harbour.

Once located, the casualties were transferred to Dungeness lifeboat which speeded to Sovereign Harbour so the group could get medical assessments as quickly as possible. Upon arrival, the nine casualties were passed to waiting Border Force officers, police and ambulance personnel.

Eastbourne lifeboat took the RIB under tow and arrived later at Sovereign Harbour. The harbour is located to the east of the town of Eastbourne.