RNLI: We make no apology for rescuing migrants

28 July 2021, 08:09 | Updated: 28 July 2021, 13:06

RNLI release footage of migrant rescue mission

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The RNLI has released dramatic bodyworn footage for the first time, showing crews pulling men, women and children out of a raft on the English Channel.

The charity was forced into defending its actions rescuing migrants in the channel after accusations it is operating a “migrant taxi service”.

The charity said: "We're proud of the lifesaving work our volunteers do in the Channel – we make no apology for it.

"Those we rescue are vulnerable people in danger & distress. Each of them is someone’s father, mother, son or daughter - every life is precious."

It comes after the charity was subjected to torrents of vile abuse on social media by people who think the migrants should not be trying to cross and should either be left to fend for themselves or be arrested.

The video from the rescue charity shows a dinghy full of migrants being rescued by the in the English Channel.

The clip shows around 12 people in a small inflatable being pulled to safety by lifeboat volunteers in November 2019.

The migrants, whose nationalities are not known, include a baby and at least one other child.

The majority of those on board are not wearing life jackets, and appear to be wearing jeans, trainers and coats.

Some of those rescued appear distressed and barely able to stand, with several wearing sopping wet clothes as they clamber on board the RNLI rescue vessel.

Once pulled to safety, the lifeboat volunteers can be heard trying to reassure the migrants and treating them for sickness and exhaustion.

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But, the head of the RNLI has been forced to defended lifeboat crews for helping rescue migrants at sea, saying "decent people" deem it "humanitarian work of the highest order".

Mark Dowie, 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.

Mr Dowie said: "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.

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

Volunteer Crews have 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".