A group of people thought to be migrants have been detained by police and Border Force agents on a Kent beach.
The group of 12, including a 10-year-old child, are believed to have arrived in Lydd-on-Sea in a black dinghy shortly after 6am on Monday.
It comes as home secretary Sajid Javid cut short a family holiday in South Africa to return to the UK to deal with the issue, which he declared a “major incident” on Friday.
Eyewitnesses described a large police presence at the scene.
Chris Matcham, who watched the events unfold, said: “I was driving towards New Romney this morning with my sister when a police car came haring past us along the road.
“We then saw the police car and van on the sea side of the road a bit further down.
“We saw what we suspected were immigrants standing by the van on the pavement. I think we saw four or five but couldn’t see for sure as we were driving past.
“Then, I went for a walk 30 minutes later and lots of police helicopters were flying overhead. The dinghy was empty and the migrants were gone.
“The police van was gone, too.”
Javid is holding talks with Whitehall chiefs, the Border Force and the National Crime Agency.
At least 220 people have crossed the Channel to the Kent coast in small boats since November.
Over the weekend, Javid and his French counterpart Christophe Castaner agreed to ramp up co-operation to stop the crossings, and will this week launch an “enhanced action plan” to increase surveillance and crack down on trafficking gangs.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Border Force was contacted by Kent Police at around 8.25am, today, Monday 31 December.
“Border Force officers were deployed to assist with a group of 12 migrants at Greatstone, Kent.
“The group consisted of nine men, two women and 10-year-old child. They have presented themselves as Iranian nationals.
“They all received a medical assessment and have now been transferred to immigration officials for interview.”