Criminal charges against 69 Albanian migrants hiding in a trawler heading for the UK were dropped yesterday following a legal blunder.
The migrants were arrested last month after the fishing boat was intercepted off the coast of East Anglia.
The November 17 operation involved the National Crime Agency, police and Border Force officers.
Plans to prosecute them for illegally entering the UK have since been abandoned as they had not set foot on British soil when they were arrested – an important legal criterion.
Alp Mehmet from Migration Watch UK, who advocates stricter border controls, said: “What in the world is the point of elaborate measures to combat illegal entry when the legal process is botched so spectacularly?
Criminal charges against 69 Albanian migrants hiding in a trawler heading for the UK were dropped yesterday following a legal blunder
A failure of this magnitude will only encourage other migrants to move their arm across the canal. & # 39;
A Border Force source said, “It is a rationale that a foreigner must have entered this country to be charged with illegal entry. This crime should be bread and butter for immigration officials. & # 39;
The Home Office said the Albanian immigration cases are now being processed and "deportation measures" are in place for those who are not entitled to stay in the UK.
The wife of one of the migrants told the Mail last night that she was "very happy" that the charges had been dropped and that she hoped he could live freely in the UK. The prosecution of the three crew members – one Latvian and two Ukrainians – continues.
Announcing the decision, a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “We have approved indictments against three people for facilitating illegal entry into the UK.
"We decided that our law enforcement tests on the 69 passengers were not passed."
The Home Office said it was "disappointed" with the decision. Five of the men had pleaded guilty and had been detained for two weeks. Their beliefs are expected to be reversed.
Ana Maria Ajazi, 34, whose husband Taulant was hiding in the ship and has been held at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Center in Bedfordshire since his arrest, said: “I am very pleased to hear this news. I hope they'll release it soon.
"I'm angry that you made this mistake because you've been in jail for almost a month."
The migrants were arrested last month after the fishing boat was intercepted off the coast of East Anglia. Among those who hid on the ship was Taulant Ajazi (pictured with his wife Maria)
Ms Ajazi, who currently lives in Romania, added: "I hope that they will all be released with papers so they can live freely."
Ajazi, 31, from Tirana said he and other migrants were ready to file appeals to stay in the UK. "It is our human right to be able to come here with our families," he added.
“Our lives in our country are in danger because of our debts. We spoke to lawyers. It is our right to live our lives in freedom. & # 39;
The migrants were originally charged with illegally entering the UK under Section 24 of the Immigration Act of 1971, which provides for up to six months' imprisonment.
However, the law states that "a person who arrives in the UK by ship or plane … will not enter the UK unless and until he disembarks".
The Ministry of the Interior did not obtain specific legal advice on the evidence required for a criminal prosecution prior to intercepting the ship.
A department spokesman said: “The arrest and prosecution decision was made by officials who are fully aware of the law.
"Since these are summary crimes that are dealt with in the district court, it was not a case of going to the CPS and seeking legal advice."
Plans to prosecute them for illegally entering Britain have now been abandoned as they had not yet set foot on British soil when they were arrested – an important legal criterion
He added: “We are disappointed that the case against the 69 people charged with illegal entry is being dropped and we are working urgently with the CPS to resolve the issues raised in this case.
"Immigration cases will be dealt with as quickly as possible and action will be taken against those who do not have the right to stay in the UK."
More than 250 officers were involved in the operation to intercept the 101-foot trawler named Svanic, which had left Belgium.
The ship was brought to Harwich, Essex in one of the largest illegal immigration cases ever revealed.
Following the arrests, Priti Patel hailed the operation as a "great win" against a "serious illegal venture".
In response to the CPS decision, the Home Office spokesman said: “The successful operation of the Border Force off the Essex coast resulted in charges against three people of facilitating illegal entry into the UK and the confiscation of a valuable fishing vessel.
"We are pleased that the CPS has approved these facilitation fees."
More than 250 officers were involved in the operation to intercept the 101-foot trawler named Svanic, which had left Belgium. Following the arrests, Priti Patel hailed the operation as a "great win" against a "serious illegal venture".
Nearly 1,000 asylum seekers were given refuge in the UK in 2018 after claiming to be gay, lesbian or bisexual
By David Barrett, Interior Correspondent for the Daily Mail
A record number of asylum seekers were allowed to stay in the UK after they said they were persecuted at home for their sexuality.
Nearly 1,000 gay, lesbian, or bisexual applicants were offered refuge in 2018, the most recent year of the data. Fewer than 800 such applications were approved in 2015.
Home Office sources say homosexuality, which puts a person at risk, was one of the main arguments put forward at the last minute in legal challenges to deportation.
The way lawyers use late appeals, often for human rights reasons, was scrutinized after the Home Office chartered flight to Jamaica last week.
23 convicted Jamaican criminals, including one murderer and several rapists, avoided deportation after making belated claims.
A record number of asylum seekers were allowed to stay in the UK after saying they were persecuted at home for their sexuality (file photo)
Many of the cases presented in the latest data involve people from countries such as Uganda, Pakistan, Malaysia and Nigeria, where gays and lesbians are often exposed to abuse and attack.
However, asylum applications on grounds of sexuality have also been accepted by countries like Albania and Russia.
In 2018, there were 974 successful asylum applications for these reasons.
Of these, 501 were allowed to stay immediately, while another 473 won their case on appeal.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK prides itself on providing protection to asylum seekers fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and takes their needs and circumstances into account at all stages of the process.
“Every asylum case is carefully examined by officials who receive extensive training and must follow the guidelines of the Ministry of the Interior.
"Under no circumstances would you ask a sexually explicit question."
Home Secretary Priti Patel was voiced in her criticism of lawyers who use last-minute challenges to block deportations.
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