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Migrants found after empty inflatable boat found on Kent beach

An ‘extensive search’ was stood down once it was clear no one had been left stranded in the sea.

Officials have found a group of eight migrants who travelled across the Channel in an inflatable dinghy.

An “extensive” coastguard search was launched in Kent on Monday when the empty vessel was found on the beach at Dungeness at around 8.10am.

The maritime operation was stood down once it was clear no one had been left stranded in the sea.

Hours later police and Border Force personnel were seen three and a half miles away in Lydd with some of the men, who were offered foil blankets and police jackets to keep warm.

The Home Office said seven people were “in Border Force care” and one was in hospital. A ninth man was arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal entry to the UK.

The operation came amid heightened concerns over the number of migrants trying to cross the Channel.

In December, Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared the situation a “major incident” and announced plans to bring two Border Force cutters back to the UK to boost sea patrols.

A Navy vessel, HMS Mersey – which was on patrol this morning – is being used to guard the Channel until the cutters return.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Border Force was contacted by HM Coastguard this morning, Monday January 7, at around 8.20am after they received reports of an unattended RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) at Dungeness, Kent.

“Border Force officers were deployed to secure the vessel. A search of  the local area found eight people. Seven of those are now in Border Force care and the eighth has been transferred to hospital.

“A ninth man, who was also found in the area, has been arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal entry to the UK. The incident is currently being investigated by officers from Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation team.”

Mr Javid said that “in almost every case” people who make the journey in these circumstances go on to claim asylum in the UK.

These applicants are given a medical assessment before being transferred to immigration officials for an initial interview.

They are then provided with accommodation while their application proceeds through the system.

Of the 504 migrants who tried to cross the English Channel in 2018, 276 managed to get to British waters and coasts, and 228 were intercepted by French authorities.

Most were Iranian, according to the French interior ministry.

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