London man charged after dramatic migrant boat rescue

Photo by Eddie Mitchell
Photo by Eddie Mitchell

A man has been charged with assisting illegal entry after an inflatable boat carrying nine people was brought into Sovereign Harbour.

Afrim Xhekaliu, aged 40, of Leicester Road, Barnet – who was on the boat that was rescued on Wednesday (January 31) – has been charged with assisting illegal entry. He will appear via video link today (Friday) at Brighton Magistrates Court.

According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), no further action has been taken against the other boat occupant who was arrested, and he is now being dealt with by Immigration Enforcement.

A third man arrested by NCA officers in Crawley last night was questioned and has been released under investigation.

It follows a search and rescue operation involving the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the RNLI, Border Force and the NCA off the coast of Sussex.

A rigid hull inflatable boat, carrying eight men and one woman, was eventually located and those on board taken by lifeboat to Eastbourne.

Six men and the woman, all believed to be Albanian nationals, are being dealt with by Border Force, while the two other men, also believed to be Albanian, are now being questioned by the NCA.

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.”

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