LIFEBOATS were launched this afternoon to rescue dozens of people, believed to be migrants who had crossed the Channel.

HM Coastgaurd co-ordinated a "search and rescue response" after receiving reports of a vessel with approximately 30 people on board in trouble about 23 miles south of Beachy Head.

RNLI Lifeboats from Eastbourne and Newhaven were called out just after midday, as well as Bexhill, Eastbourne and Langdon Battery Coastguard Rescue Teams.  

SEE ALSO: IN PICTURES: 'migrant' boat rescued and towed ashore in Eastbourne

The coastguard said: "HM Coastguard is only concerned with preservation of life, rescuing those in trouble and bringing them safely back to shore, where they will be handed over to the relevant partner emergency services or authorities."

The Argus: Photos: Eddie MitchellPhotos: Eddie Mitchell

Pictures from Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne show emergency services at the scene as people were brought ashore, including children being carried wrapped in blankets.

In a tweet, the Emergency Preparedness Resilience & Response Team (EPRR) for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said: "This incident relates to approximately 30 men, women and children arriving at Sovereign Harbour in a small boat.

"No-one has been harmed, although a small number will be brought to our hospitals for a welfare check.

"Sussex Resilience Forum multia-agency partners are in control and managing the situation."

Border Force were in attendance and several people have been detained, Sussex Police said.

A spokesman for the force said: “On Saturday afternoon police supported Border Force staff in receiving a number of people suspected of not having authority to enter the UK, who had been on a vessel towed safely by the RNLI into Sovereign Harbour at Eastbourne.

The Argus:

"Those detained are being taken into custody and care by Border Force for further enquiries."

The Home Office has been contacted for a statement.