Lifeboat crews who help pull illegal immigrants from the waters of the English Channel do so for humanitarian reasons and do not deserve insults, Mark Dowie, head of the UK’s water rescue NGO, the RNLI, said on Wednesday.
This was in response to media reports that there had been several instances of RNLI lifeguards being insulted in recent days after they brought to the UK coast groups of illegal immigrants who are sent across the Channel by smuggling gangs in small boats or dinghies. According to these accounts, some of the rescuers were insulted online, while in another case a crowd on the shore shouted towards those rescued to return to France.
Britain is facing an unprecedented influx of illegal immigrants across the Channel. More than 9,000 have already crossed this way since the start of this year, more than in all of 2020, and 3,300 in July alone, a record monthly number.
Dowie stressed that the RNLI provides assistance to people in distress for whatever reason they are in the water.
The people of these (UK) islands are generally decent people and all decent people will see this as a humanitarian action of the highest order. Our crews should not have to deal with the kind of insults they have suffered,’ he said. – Our volunteers get out of bed in the middle of the night, leave their jobs, leave their families and go sailing because they believe they are doing the right thing, he added.
The RNLI chief acknowledged that the Channel migrant crisis is a polarising issue, but pointed out that his organisation’s volunteers simply want to prevent people dying at sea. He pointed out that migrants’ dinghies are often overloaded and unsuitable for such a dangerous crossing, conditions on board are poor and people suffer from prolonged exposure to the sun, dehydration or other illnesses.
The British Home Office is trying to solve the problem by tightening regulations, increasing penalties especially for smugglers. As it points out, the smuggling is organised by criminal gangs who are indifferent to the conditions in which the migrants will sail.