FOUR people have been arrested for people smuggling after launching from the South Coast of England.

They were arrested during an operation to smuggle migrants into the UK via boat.

Two British men and one Albanian national were arrested on a fishing boat in Cherbourg, France.

They had been preparing to leave the port in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Five migrants, believed to be Albanian, were also found on board.

The boat had left the Isle of Wight for France last Friday at around 2am.

UK officers later swooped in to arrest a 43-year-old man on the Isle of Wight on suspicion of conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration and money laundering.

He has been released on bail while the three arrested in France remain in French custody.

The operation was lead by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) but also involved National Crime Agency, Border Force and the French authorities.

Detective Inspector Clair Trueman, from SEROCU, said: “We have worked closely with our counterparts in France and wider UK Law Enforcement partners to stop those who attempt to facilitate illegal immigration.

"In this particular case the organised crime group intended to transport a group of illegal migrants into the UK on a small boat.

"These criminals exploit vulnerable people in communities to make money without any considerations for their welfare.

"SEROCU will continue to work jointly with the NCA, Border and authorities broad to catch these organised crime groups and protect those at risk from them.”

National Crime Agency branch operations manager Martin Matthews added: “These arrests were made as a result of co-operation between the NCA, SEROCU, Border Force and our French partners.

"Working with them we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks involved in immigration crime.

"People smugglers treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from, and are content to put them in situations of extreme danger. That is why this type of crime is a priority for us.”

Head of Operations for Border Force Maritime Command, Dennis Norman said: "These are significant arrests and indicative of the successful work that Border Force is engaged in to tackle people smuggling. By using our maritime capability in support of the operation we were able to provide vital assistance that enabled the arrests to be made.

"Working with our law enforcement partners at home and abroad, we are determined to bring those responsible for this kind of criminality to justice.”