More than 70 suspected migrants have been intercepted in the English Channel and brought ashore at Dover, they arrived off the Kent coast on several boats and a large-scale search and rescue operation has been launched by British and French patrol boats.
HM Coastguard said it is responding to “a number of incidents” off the coast, along with Kent Police, Border Force, and other agencies.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “HM Coastguard is co-ordinating a search and rescue response to a number of incidents off Kent this morning, working with Border Force, Kent Police and other partners.
“Border Force vessels Searcher, Speedwell and Alert have been sent, along with RNLI lifeboats from Dover and Littleston, a fixed-wing aircraft and an HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Helicopter from Lydd.
“HM Coastguard is only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities.”
It is understood the group will be medically assessed before being interviewed by immigration officials. Witnesses said some were carried off on stretchers to waiting ambulances, while others wrapped in blankets were checked over by paramedics.
Footage from the scene showed people being escorted off the Home Office’s patrol cutter Searcher. It is the world’s busiest shipping lane, with between 500 and 600 vessels passing through the narrow strait every day.
The government has previously described the surge in migrant crossings as a “major incident”.