The group - including several children - were helped on to the shore by crew on the RNLI 13-28 inshore lifeboat at around midday on Thursday (November 11). They were then met by police stationed on the beach, near the Hastings lifeboat station. The area was cordoned off and a crowd of 30 people gathered to watch the scene.
A video showed the 40ft lifeboat coming to shore, near the harbour arm. Some of the migrants waved as the vessel landed on the beach. RNLI crew rested a metal ladder against the boat, and the first migrant climbed down. He was met by police and told to sit down on the pebbles. The other migrants were then helped down the ladder. Police said they would be handed over to Border Force officials.
Volunteers from Hastings Supports Refugees handed out hot drinks, food, warm clothing and blankets to the 53 men, women and children - from Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Kuwait and China.
“Local businesses played their part,” the group said. “One Old Town pub responded with trays of chips and a cafe with hot drinks, all without charge. Hot food and drinks are an essential part of any first response...None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the ongoing support of the people of our town.”
Jordan Phillips, 24, from Hastings, was walking his dog when he saw people being helped off the lifeboat. He said: “They started processing them near the Stade. There were eight police cars, a few search and rescue cars. And the whole place was cordoned off. It looked like there were at least five kids there. There were lots of people handing out towels and tinfoil to get them warm.”
The migrants were rescued from a stricken vessel off the Kent coast on Thursday morning. HM Coastguard co-ordinated a search and rescue operation, working with Border Force and other partners. Hastings and Dungeness lifeboats were sent to the scene. A spokesperson for HM Coastguard said they would “continue to safeguard life around the seas and coastal areas of the UK, working with search and rescue resources in the area.”
In total, 1,185 people crossed the Channel by boat to reach the UK on Thursday, a new record for migrant crossings in a single day. Four Border Force vessels intercepted boats and escorted them into Dover.