More immigrants could head to Suffolk

CLOSURE of the notorious French detention centre at Sangatte may make the Suffolk coastline the next target for international people traffickers.Two of the three yachts recently landing in the county with immigrants on board from the Asian subcontinent, had a French crew member on board.

HOLD legal problem. Sara cotter can't mention case where people charged in context of an article about people trafficking.

BY GEORGINA WROE

CLOSURE of the notorious French detention centre at Sangatte may make the Suffolk coastline the next target for international people traffickers.

Two of the three yachts recently landing in the county with immigrants on board from the Asian subcontinent, had a French crew member on board.


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Home Secretary David Blunkett and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy recently agreed Sangatte detention centre, housing about 1500 would be asylum seekers, will close some time between October and March next year.

The news comes as immigration officials team up with customs and police to make the public more aware of Coastwatch – a scheme aimed at beating people smugglers.

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According to one official, smugglers use the summer sailing season with its regular Channel crossings, to hide their illegal cargoes.

Currently three cases of alleged people smuggling are before the county's courts.

Two of the boats – the Dutch-registered Pim and Sea Witch – counted a French national among their crew.

Coastguards towed the Pim into Shotley marina last month after it ran into difficulties off Aldeburgh.

Immigration officials arrested Frenchman Hussain Abid, 33, Dutchmen Johan Hoekstra, 25, and Ludwig Kwarten, 26, after a van was stopped on the A12 in Capel St Mary containing 10 Indians and one Bangladeshi national.

All three men were charged with aiding and abetting the entry of illegal immigrants.

And another Frenchman, Phillipe Longatte, 57, was among the crew of the Sea Witch which docked at Bawdsey with an illegal cargo of six Indian men and two Burmese.

Longatte was arested with Norwegian Eugen Bjelland, 62, charged with smuggling eight immigrants into the UK and importing drugs, after three "pillowsized foil packages" containing cannabis were found on the boat.

Harwich-based immigration spokesman Alec Troop said: "With the events over the last month and half this is a reminder to the general public that Coastwatch is still up and running. It's a freephone number and all calls are treated in confidence. This is a joint initiative between HM Customs, the police and ourselves."

John Barber, spokesman for Customs, said: "The fight against crime on the coast is not easily won. Whether it's smugglers trying to bring in drugs or illegal immigrants, or people committing other crimes, all agencies must work together, exchanging information and intelligence, and let the public know what they can do for us if they spot something unusual happening."

Members of the public who see anything suspicious are urged to call the Coastwatch number on 0800 595000.

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