Search for migrants launched after empty boat and lifejackets found off UK coast

A search for suspected migrants was launched after an empty dinghy was found drifting off the coast of Kent.

The inflatable boat was discovered a couple of miles from Walmer on Sunday morning, triggering a search by Border Force and HM Coastguard.

Lifejackets were found near Shakespeare Beach in Dover, about eight miles away.

Officials were investigating whether the dinghy and lifejackets were from the same incident, and whether the vessel had drifted out to sea after landing on the southern coast of England overnight.

Four lifeboats and a Coastguard helicopter were involved in the search for an unknown number of people.

The vessel discovered in St Margaret’s Bay near Walmer was a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) and it was towed to Dover.

The search was later called off amid reports a second empty boat was found at Camber, tweeted BBC reporter Simon Jones.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Border Force is currently dealing with an ongoing small boat incident off the Kent coast.

"Further details will be provided once the situation has been resolved."

HM Coastguard confirmed it was assisting Border Force in the search off Walmer.

The search came just days after the largest arrival of migrants on a single boat to date.

On February 18, 34 migrants were picked up from an RHIB and brought into Dover after they were discovered in the English Channel.

It is estimated that about 100 people have made the 21-mile journey between France and England in small boats since January 1.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared a "major incident" at Christmas after a surge in the number of crossings.

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