RNLI defends lifeboat crews who help bring migrants ashore

·2 min read
Mark Dowie at the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset - Ben Birchall/PA
Mark Dowie at the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset - Ben Birchall/PA

The RNLI has defended lifeboat crews who helped to rescue migrants and bring them ashore after crews faced abuse.

Mark Dowie, the RNLI chief executive, said he felt compelled to comment after volunteers reported being heckled for bringing migrants to safety.

It comes as record numbers of migrants try to cross the potentially treacherous English Channel to get to the UK, despite vows from the Home Office to make the route from mainland Europe “unviable”.

Mr Dowie said the sea charity was “doing the right thing” by going to people's aid, regardless of their reason for being in the water.

“The people of these islands (the UK) fundamentally are decent people, and all decent people will see this as humanitarian work of the highest order,” he said.

“Our crews should not have to put up with some of the abuse they received.”

A London RNLI crew hit out on social media at the weekend after volunteers were verbally abused.

Crews also described being on the receiving end of an “angry mob” after coming back from a rescue, with members of the public shouting at the migrants to go “back to France”.

Mr Dowie acknowledged the migrant crisis was a divisive issue, but said RNLI volunteers simply wanted to prevent people dying at sea.

He said: “We have seen the negative reaction to the issue over the course of the last five years, since this route was opened up.

“It's polarising, but it's humanitarian work of the highest order. That's what we should remember.

“Our volunteers get out of bed in the middle of the night, leave their employment, leave their families, and go out and do this because they believe in doing the right thing. Never doubt their commitment to that.

“If you look at social media, around almost any issue you will find very strong views one way or the other. We are doing the right thing.”

The RNLI also released dramatic footage of a rescue in the Channel, when around a dozen distressed and shivering people on board a small dinghy were pulled to safety, in an effort to highlight the plight of those trying to make the trip.

It comes as immigration officials in Dover, Kent said they had become so overwhelmed with migrants that they had been forced to register them in a car park.

The Kent Intake Unit at Tug Haven has a capacity to process 380 people when they arrive after crossing the Channel. But Border Force officials told The Times they did not have enough room to process the 430 migrants who arrived on July 19.

“We were processing them in the car parks – in full view of the public,” an official told the newspaper.

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