The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) has said that 72 people have been arrested after a fishing boat was intercepted off the eastern coast of England, prompting a people smuggling investigation.

The 30-metre trawler was detained by Border Force patrol vessels off Great Yarmouth in East Anglia yesterday evening.

The boat had sailed from the Ostend area of Belgium.

The three crew members, a Latvian national and two Ukrainian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration.

The other 69 people, all Albanian nationals, were arrested on suspicion of breaking immigration rules.

A search of the vessel is ongoing.

"This was clearly a significant incident and a significant attempt to breach the UK's border controls," said Craig Naylor, NCA Deputy Director of Investigations.

"We are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling networks, and prevent them from exploiting migrants for profit.

"Our aim is to target those who cause harm, safeguard those who are most vulnerable while securing the United Kingdom's borders."

Britain has faced a spike in illegal migration this year, but this has been largely focused on the English Channel route from northern France to the coastline of Kent.

Additional reporting PA