Suspected illegal immigrants were apparently "dropped off" by a sailing yacht into the world's busiest shipping lanes, half a mile from the Kent coast, in a child's rubber dinghy.
The pair, believed to be from Pakistan, were floating in the Channel when a tourist boat sailed past them.
Its skipper called the RNLI, who saved the men and took them back to Dover, where they were detained by immigration officials.
The Channel is used by hundreds of cargo ships and passenger ferries every day.
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An off-duty policeman, out with his children and his children's friends at a cinema, has been praised for tackling a young man with a knife.