The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has said it’s “very proud” of it’s humanitarian work rescuing migrants at risk of death – after Nigel Farage accused the charity of becoming a “taxi service” into Britain.
The RNLI has said it’s part of it’s legal duty under international maritime law to continue to respond to coastguard call outs regardless of people’s reasons for being in the water.
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Mark Dowie, the chief executive of the RNLI, told The Guardian: “Imagine being out of sight of land, running out of fuel, coming across incredibly busy shipping lanes when you’re frightened and you don’t know which direction you’re going in.
"That is by anyone’s standards distress.
"Our role in this is incredible important: simply to respond to a need to save lives.”
It comes as volunteers have reported being heckled for bringing migrants to safety.
What did Nigel Farage say?
“What I have said over the course of the last few weeks is it is to be regretted that the RNLI in Kent particularly, partly in East Sussex, increasingly is becoming a taxi service for the illegal gangs pushing migrants across into the English Channel.
"It is effectively become an arm of Border Force and that this is leading to division within coastal communities, questions which are being asked by RNLI crew.
"And that it’s a problem because the people who give money to the RNLI are asking themselves ‘do I really want to give money for this?’”
He went on to say that he has been involved in RNLI fundraising events - including a charity beer festival – and held a migrant’s hand on a life-saving mission.
He added: “I understand those that are coming here illegally are still human beings, of course I still understand all of that, but I worry the RNLI are doing the wrong thing.”
How many migrants have travelled to the UK?
Record numbers of migrants are now trying 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”.
The Times has reported that Border Force is braced for 22,000 migrants to cross the Channel in small boats this year – with 8,900 already making the treacherous journey overseas.
A total of 378 migrants were detained by the UK authorities in 12 incidents on July 25 with 178 others being stopped from reaching the UK by the French in five further incidents, according to the Home Office
Dowie said the migrants’ dinghies are often overloaded and inadequate for such a perilous journey, with poor conditions on board and people suffering exposure, dehydration or other sickness, having sometimes spent more than 30 hours trying to teach the British mainland.
How can I donate to the RNLI?
RNLI was founded in 1824 and every year 400 crews and lifeguards rescue around 30,000 people, the charity says.
Crews are tasked by HM Coastguard in the UK and the Irish Coast Guard in Ireland to rescue anyone who is at risk of drowning.
RNLI lifeboats are divided into two categories: all-weather lifeboats and inshore lifeboats – which can reach people in all kinds of situations and locations.
There are many ways to donate to the charity, by phone, by text, paying in legacy, through membership – among other options from £2.70 a month which will help towards training, equipment and life-saving support.