Well-wishers donate £200k in a day after RNLI crews abused for migrant rescues

29 July 2021, 15:47 | Updated: 29 July 2021, 18:04

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The RNLI has received £200,000 in donations within a single 24-hour period after being abused for saving migrants crossing the English Channel.

Daily contributions to the charity usually amount to around £7,000, meaning the latest tally is more than 28 times larger than the average.

The spike in donations came after the organisation's chief executive, Mark Dowie, defended its volunteers for helping people who risk the perilous journey across the water.

Read more: RNLI do great job but UK must 'come down hard' on smugglers - Raab

Watch: 'We make no apology for rescuing migrants,' RNLI says

Jayne George, the RNLI's fundraising director, said: "We are overwhelmed with the huge level of support we have received from our amazing supporters in the last couple of days.

"We have seen an uplift in donations, with over £200,000 being donated yesterday alone through a combination of one-off donations, new regular support and supporters increasing their regular donation amount. This is simply incredible."

However, some regular donors have since stopped their contributions following the comments of Mr Dowie, who said the charity's work during the migrant crisis was "humanitarian".

Exclusive: LBC investigation sees people smuggler jailed and banned from France

Read more: Almost 600 migrants intercepted crossing Channel over weekend

Ms George said: "This was never a fundraising campaign - we simply wanted to tell the story of our crews and make it clear that our charity exists to save lives at sea.

"Our mission is to save every one. Our supporters' kindness means so much to us, without them we could not save lives at sea, every one is a lifesaver.

"We know that this is a polarising issue and people have strong opinions on the subject. Sadly, a small number of supporters have contacted us to withdraw their support."

There was also a near four-fold increase in the number of people viewing volunteering opportunities on the RNLI's website during the same period.

The charity said it has faced criticism for rescuing migrants in the Channel over the past five years, but that has escalated in recent weeks.

Last weekend, one London-based crew had to call the police after receiving abuse, prompting Mr Dowie to give a series of interviews in which he said the organisation was "doing the right thing" by going to people's aid, regardless of their reason for being in the water.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told LBC the RNLI does an "incredible job".

However, he added that the government must "come down as hard as possible" on the issue of small boats bringing migrants into England.

Branding the people smugglers "parasites", Mr Raab said the strongest criminal action needed to be taken against them.

More than 9,000 people have crossed the Channel so far this year on board small boats, despite the dangerous journey claiming lives in the past.

For July, more than 3,300 have arrived in the UK so far - a new record for a single month.

Government officials fear that high numbers of crossings will continue as summer goes on, with small boat arrivals this year having already passed the total for the whole of 2020.