Suspected migrants rescued in Channel

A rigid-hulled inflatable boat

Image caption

The boat was driven away from Dymchurch beach

Twenty people, including 18 Albanians, have been rescued from a boat that had started taking in water overnight in the English Channel off the Kent coast.

The BBC has been told that some of the passengers, who are believed to be migrants, phoned relatives in Calais to let them know they were in trouble.

The French authorities were then alerted and contacted the UK coastguard, the BBC understands.

Border Force officials are interviewing the 20, which also include two Britons.

The UK coastguard said it was called just before midnight on Saturday to an incident off the coastal village of Dymchurch.

A helicopter from nearby Lydd and two lifeboats with coastguard rescue teams from Dungeness and Folkestone began the search.

About two hours later, at 02:00 BST, a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, known as a rhib, with 20 people on board was found.

Media captionThe BBC’s Catriona Renton reports on the rescue operation

The group were handed over to the UK Border Force and taken to Dover.

An immigration spokesman for the Home Office said they were currently being interviewed by Border Force officers.

A Coastguard statement said: “A call was received at 11.40pm yesterday requesting assistance to the RHIB, which was taking on water.

“The RHIB… was located at 2am and the incident handed over to UK Border Force.”

The incident comes after 17 men, thought to be Albanian migrants, were detained after a catamaran arrived at Chichester Marina in West Sussex on Tuesday, along with a 55-year-old British man wanted on suspicion of murder in Spain.

The Briton, who was the subject of a European Arrest Warrant, was detained on suspicion of facilitating illegal immigration and the 17 men were held on suspicion of entering the UK illegally.

Also last month, two Iranian men were found floating in a dinghy in the English Channel.

Suspected migrants rescued in Channel

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