Home Office officials wrongly charged 69 people with entering the UK illegally when they had not reached the country, it has emerged.
At least five men were jailed for a crime they did not commit as a result of the error, and will now have their convictions quashed.
The Albanian nationals were on board a fishing boat intercepted off the coast of Great Yarmouth on 17 November.
The vessel, sailing from Ostend in Belgium, was the target of a joint operation involving the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement unit, Border Force and the National Crime Agency.
All 72 people on board were arrested after two Border Force ships escorted the boat to Harwich harbour.
The interception at sea and immediate detention means they had not entered the UK or committed a crime under the Immigration Act, but Immigration Enforcement prosecuted 69 passengers using the law.
On Wednesday, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that it was stopping proceedings against the passengers because the case failed on evidential grounds.