England

Migrant boat off Dungeness sparks Channel rescue bid

Lifeboat Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption Three lifeboat crews were sent to the scene

Nine people have been rescued from an inflatable boat that ran into trouble in the English Channel.

Coastguards and the RNLI went to help the RIB - or rigid inflatable boat - which was about 20 miles south of Dungeness in Kent.

The people were taken on board a lifeboat and brought ashore at Eastbourne. Their vessel was being towed back to shore, the RNLI said.

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of people smuggling offences.

The Home Office said the eight men and a woman said they were from Albania.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the Border Force received an alert from coastguards at about 05:30 GMT, after concerns were raised about a small boat.

Coastguards and lifeboat crews launched a search and rescue operation to locate the vessel.

'Illegal crossings danger'

"It was found and is now in Eastbourne harbour where the nine people on board, who presented themselves as being from Albania, are being dealt with by Border Force," the spokeswoman said.

"The group consisted of eight men and one woman and they will be processed in line with immigration rules.

"An investigation led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) is now underway."

Six men and the woman are being dealt with by Border Force while the two other men are being questioned by the NCA.

Last year, a BBC freedom of information request to the Home Office for statistics on numbers of rescues of migrants in boats was refused on security grounds.

The NCA said it was working with the Border Force and Immigration Enforcement.

A spokesman said: "We are aware of an incident this morning that led to a number of persons being rescued."

He said the group were receiving appropriate medical attention, adding: "This incident demonstrates the dangers associated with such attempts to cross the Channel illegally."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the search and rescue operation involved lifeboat crews from Dover, Dungeness and Eastbourne and a coastguard helicopter.

An MCA spokeswoman said the rescued people were taken on board the Dungeness all-weather lifeboat and looked after by the crew.

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