Nine Albanian migrants were rescue from a tiny dinghy in the middle of the Channel after they tried to cross in gale force winds.
Three RNLI lifeboats and a HM Coastguard helicopter were scrambled to locate the boat after it was reported to be in trouble.
The eight men and a woman were plucked from the 22ft RHiB (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat) 20 miles south of Dungeness at 5am on Wednesday.
Three RNLI lifeboats and a HM Coastguard helicopter were scrambled to locate the boat after it was reported to be in trouble. Pictured: Dungeness life boat station, which provided one of the rescue craft
They were taken ashore at Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour on Wednesday afternoon and questioned by Border Control.
It is understood the group had set sail from Boulogne in France on Tuesday night with gales in the English Channel reaching Force 6 to 7.
A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman said: ‘There are casualties, but no fatalities. They have all been recovered. Everyone is accounted for and safe and well.
‘They are on a lifeboat and heading to port. They were recovered on a lifeboat. They are cold and a bit sea sick.’
It is not yet known how the distress signal was sent by the group or what caused the vessel to get into trouble, although the Coastguard ruled out engine trouble.
The Home Office confirmed that the National Crime Agency has now launched an investigation.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘At 5.30am this morning (Wednesday, 31 January), Border Force received a call from The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) after concerns were raised about a small boat off the coast of East Sussex.
‘The MCA launched a search and rescue operation with the RNLI to locate the boat.
‘It was found and is now in Eastbourne Harbour where the nine people on board, who presented themselves as being from Albania, are being dealt with by Border Force.
‘The group consisted of eight men and one woman and they will be processed in line with immigration rules.
‘An investigation led by the National Crime Agency is now underway.’
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke urged authorities to be ‘vigilant’ of illegal migrants attempting to enter Britain.
Mr Elphicke said: ‘This underlines yet again the extreme lengths people will go to, risking their lives trying to break into Britain.
‘Crossing the English Channel in a small inflatable boat during winter is about as dangerous as it gets.
‘We know more migrants are returning to Calais following recent comments by President Macron.
‘This is why we must be more vigilant than ever and protect our borders.’
Last week it was revealed that several hundred migrants are now living rough close to the Port of Calais in France as they try to make their way to Britain.
A Maritime and Coastguard statement said: ‘HM Coastguard has been involved in coordinating a search and rescue operation today.
‘The call came in just before 5am to which the Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter from Lydd, along with the Dover and Dungeness lifeboats were involved in the search off the Dover Straits.
‘A vessel has been found and nine people rescued and taken on board the Dungeness all-weather lifeboat where they are currently being looked after by the crew.’