Nine people rescued from a boat crossing the English Channel told Border Force officers they come from Albania.

The National Crime Agency is investigating after the eight men and one woman were rescued by lifeboat crews on Wednesday morning in the Dover Strait.

KentOnline reported that it was contacted by a person claiming to be a friend of one of those on board the boat.

They told the website: “I don’t know exactly if my friend is there or not, but last night they tried going to England by France with a boat.

“We spoke with him up until he said they were going on the sea.

“Now nobody answers (the phone), we are afraid whether they are alive. They are Albanians.”

The Home Office said Border Force officers were alerted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at 5.30am after a small boat was spotted off the East Sussex coast.

“The MCA launched a search and rescue operation with the RNLI (Royal Nation Lifeboat Institution) to locate the boat,” an MCA spokeswoman said.

“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.

“They will be processed in line with immigration rules.

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“An investigation led by the National Crime Agency is now under way.”

A spokeswoman for the coastguard said the group was being cared for by the Dungeness lifeboat crew.