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British pair remanded after 18 Albanians rescued in English Channel

Published 30/05/2016

A search and rescue helicopter was deployed
A search and rescue helicopter was deployed

Two British men have been remanded in custody charged with immigration offences after 18 Albanians were rescued from a sinking boat in the English Channel.

Mark Stribling, 35, from Farningham, Kent, and Robert Stilwell, 33, from Dartford, appeared at Medway Magistrates' Court to face charges under Section 25 (1) of the Immigration Act 1971.

They were ordered to stay in custody until the next hearing, at Maidstone Crown Court on June 27.

Two children and a woman were among the group of 18 Albanians aboard the rigid-hulled inflatable boat which began to sink off Dymchurch, Kent, on Saturday night.

Along with the Albanians, two British men were also rescued by the Coastguard, working with the RNLI, and handed over to the Border Force.

It has been reported the people on board had alerted their families in Calais, who raised the alarm with the French authorities.

A second vessel, believed to be linked to the inflatable that got into trouble, was discovered on the beach on Sunday at Dymchurch and was seized by the authorities.

The incident has sparked fears that tragedies seen in Greece or Italy could start to occur in the Channel.

President of the French coastguard, Bernard Barron, told Sky News: "It's starting to become a very similar situation to that seen in the Mediterranean and my biggest fear is that the same kind of tragedies we see in Greece or Italy will start to repeat in the Channel."

He added that smugglers have found a new way of bringing migrants into the country after it became "virtually impossible" for them to enter via the Channel Tunnel or on ferries.

"They operate across the length of both the French and Belgian coastlines, between Ostend and into Normandy, finding new positions from where they can send their clients - the migrants - towards England," he said.

Mr Barron said that even though the smugglers are being given large sums of money, there are not providing suitable transport for a "sea filled with danger, with strong currents, storms and heavy traffic of larger vessels".

The incident came after 17 suspected Albanian migrants and a British man wanted on suspicion of murder in Spain were detained after a catamaran arrived at Chichester Marina in West Sussex on Tuesday last week.

The 55-year-old man, who was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant, was also detained on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration, while the 17 Albanian men were held on suspicion of entering the UK illegally.

The Albanians in this earlier incident have been detained pending Home Office consideration of their cases.

Last month, two Iranian men were found floating in an ill-equipped dinghy in the English Channel.

The National Crime Agency recently revealed migrants trying to reach the UK are paying smuggling gangs up to £13,500 for their journey.

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