Two people believed to be migrants attempting to cross the Channel have been rescued as a desperate search for a third was called off on the Essex coast.
Two Somali nationals were plucked to safety from a small vessel near the port town of Harwich on Monday.
A source with knowledge of the search and rescue operation said two people have been rescued and the dinghy has been recovered.
The Telegraph said sources close to the search feared that as many as three more migrants were missing at sea.
The Home Office said it could not comment until the search-and-rescue operations had been resolved.
Harwich lifeboat launched at 4.05pm on Monday, returned and then launched again at 11.35pm, before going back to shore at 8am on Tuesday. Searches have since ceased.
“All have been stood down by HM Coastguard who are continuing to co-ordinate the search with Border Force.”
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said a Coastguard helicopter and a plane were sent to the incident, adding: “HM Coastguard has been co-ordinating a search and rescue response to an incident off Essex, working with Border Force and other partners.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “This afternoon an extensive search and rescue operation for a man reported to have entered the water off the Essex coast concluded.
“We want to thank those who responded to this incident and who continue to work tirelessly to protect lives at sea whilst securing our border.
“While the investigation into this incident continues, it is a reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and the callous disregard for life shown by the criminal gangs.
“We are determined to do everything we can to prevent people dying in the Channel. The Government’s New Plan for Immigration, and ongoing work with the French Government, will help us crack down on organised criminals and reform the asylum system to deter people from attempting these deadly crossings.”
A 27-year-old Eritrean man died in August this year after a boat carrying 36 people began to sink off the coast of France.