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Man faces people-smuggling charge after migrants rescued from boat in Channel

Afrim Xhekaliu was charged with assisting illegal entry after he and eight others were rescued from the Dover Strait by lifeboat crews in January.

A man accused of people-smuggling after a group of migrants were rescued from a boat crossing the English Channel has appeared in court.

Afrim Xhekaliu was charged with assisting illegal entry after he and eight others were rescued by lifeboat crews on January 31.

The 40-year-old Albanian, from Barnet, north London, appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Friday via video-link.

Dressed in a dark jumper, T-shirt and jeans, he spoke from custody in Lewes Prison to identify himself but was not asked to enter a plea at this stage.

The case was adjourned for legal discussions to take place at the next hearing on May 1.

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Migrant rescue in English Channel

Judge Christine Laing QC told Xhekaliu that, if a trial is to take place, a provisional date has been set for July 2.

Eight men and one woman, who told Border Force officers they were Albanian, were rescued from the Dover Strait during the incident and taken to Eastbourne harbour.

A search and rescue operation involving the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the RNLI, Border Force and the National Crime Agency (NCA) was launched after a small rigid hull inflatable boat was spotted off the coast of East Sussex.

A second arrested man, who was also on board the boat, was previously released with no further action and was handed over to immigration authorities.

NCA officers arrested a third man in Crawley and he was released under investigation.

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