A GROUP of twenty people have been rescued from the English Channel after their inflatable boat started sinking.
Border Force are investigating after 19 people were rescued in the English Channel
Lifesavers rushed to the scene, just off the coast of Dymchurch in Kent at about 11.40pm last night.
A search and rescue helicopter was deployed to scour the waters from the air, and and lifeboats from Dungeness and Littlestone and coastguard teams from Dungeness and Folkestone searched by sea in what was a near three hour search.
Two boats with 19 people on board, including a rhib (rigid-hulled inflatable boat), was found at 2am and the matter was handed over to Border Force.
They were towed into the port at Dover, Kent where the group were handed over to Home Office Immigration officers.
Their nationalities have not yet been revealed and it is not known if there were any children on board.
A Coastguard spokesman said: “UK Coastguard received a call at 11.40pm yesterday evening requesting assistance to a rhib which was taking water.
“The Coastguard deployed a search and rescue helicopter from Lydd, RNLI lifeboats from Dungeness and Littlestone and coastguard rescue teams from Dungeness and Folkestone. “The rhib, with 19 people on board was located at 2.00am and the incident handed over to Border Force.”
Witness Desrin V Wickington tweeted a pictue of what appeared to be the boat the migrants used being taken away by Border Force officers.
The boat is taken away by Border Force
At this stage it is not known how the two rhibs got across the channel from France.
The English Channel is just 20.6 miles at its shortest distance between France and the Kent coast.
But the crossing is hazardous with strong sea currents and the boats have to navigate across some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world used by huge cargo ships.
Following the rescue, the president of the French coastguard warned the kind of migrant boat tragedies seen in the Mediterranean Sea could happen in the Channel.
Bernard Barron said smugglers had found new ways to send migrants to Britain after security at the channel tunnel and on board ferries was beefed up.
Operating across the length of the coastline from France to Belgium, the smugglers pack people off in vessels unsuitable for the hazardous Channel crossing.
The boat was picked up just off the coast of Kent
More than 700 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past week, the UN has said.
And UKIP MEP Mike Hookem warned “more will die unless we stop the boats making the journey.”
More and more migrants are attempting to cross the Channel by boat
“The huge numbers trying their luck with people trafficking gangs will not stop until they get the message they will be turned back.
“The EU has blood on its hands with its policy of pretending anyone on a boat coming to Italy or Greece is a refugee fleeing war.”
In April two Iranian men were rescued on a small inflatable dinghy off Dover.
They were only saved after the captain of a cross-channel ferry spotted the light from one of their mobile phones.
There are still thought to be more than 4,000 migrants living in a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Calais in France, known as The Jungle.