RNLI issues defiant statement regarding migrant rescues

The RNLI has issued a defiant statement defining its position as a life saving charity after a torrent of social media abuse. Seemingly, the charity experienced a backlash after a national newspaper criticised its life saving missions which include helping migrants who are in danger.

“Our charity exists to save lives at sea. Our mission is to save every one, our lifesavers are compelled to go to those in need without judgement of how they came to be in the water. They have done so since the RNLI was founded in 1824 and this will always be our ethos,” says the RNLI statement.

According to the Daily Mail “the Royal National Lifeboat Institution — the registered charity so many of us help fund through donations, garden fetes and collection boxes — is regularly sending its vessels into French waters to bring in migrants.”

“We want to be absolutely clear that we are incredibly proud of the humanitarian work our volunteer lifeboat crews do to rescue vulnerable people in distress,” says the RNLI.

The charity points out that: “We are not border control and, once a rescue is complete, we hand over responsibilities for casualties to UK Border Force and / or the police.”

It’s also vowed to keep saving anyone in peril at sea despite provisions in draft legislation that barristers say could threaten volunteers with life imprisonment for picking up asylum seekers, according to the Financial Times.

Immigration experts have warned that Clause 38 of the nationality and borders bill potentially criminalises rescues of asylum seekers if they were deemed to constitute “facilitating” their arrival in the UK, says the Financial Times.

Clause 38 amends an offence under the 1971 Immigration Act of assisting an asylum seeker. The clause increases the maximum sentence to life imprisonment, from 14 years, and removes the words “for gain”, which previously limited prosecutions to paid people smugglers.

“We are a life-saving charity and, under maritime law and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (Solas), our volunteer lifeboat crews will always go to the aid of those in danger at sea,” says the RNLI.

The Home Office says the new bill targets ‘ruthless criminal gangs’ and that organisations and individuals will be able to continue to rescue those in distress in the sea.

The Daily Mail says two migrants were pulled out of the sea after falling into the water from their inflatable boat as they crossed the English Channel this weekend.

An RNLI inshore lifeboat had to be launched following reports two people wearing lifejackets were in the water after falling off a rigid hulled inflatable boat with around 20 people onboard.

The voluntary crew of the Ramsgate lifeboat then towed the drifting rib into Ramsgate harbour in Kent where Border Force officers were waiting for them.

Main image courtesy of RNLI Ramsgate.

11 responses to “RNLI issues defiant statement regarding migrant rescues”

  1. Win Cnoops says:

    What else can we expect of the Daily Mail….

  2. Jonathan Leach says:

    If the immigrants were returned to the safety of their friends and families in France, there would not be an issue.

  3. Kevin Baird says:

    Life is sacred, that is to say, it is the supreme value, to which all other values are subordinate – Albert Einstein. Well done RNLI, keep saving life at sea and let the authorities sort out the issues when they are safely on dry land.

  4. Anon says:

    As a retired ILB helmsman for the RNLI, although not at one of the stations affected, I have to say that I would not launch to assist or tow a migrant boat. These vessels and their occupants are rarely in distress. This is not the role of the RNLI and I completely disagree with the statement from Poole. Management of these vessels is solely that of the Border Force and in my opinion all of these vessels and there occupants should be returned to their point of departure.

  5. Michael Evans says:

    Surely there is a difference between those who need help sue to unforeseen circumstances a d those who deliberately put themselves in danger in the hope of economic gain through illegal entry?
    They must have travelled through one or more countries where they could and should have sought asylum
    As usual the French are playing us for fools taking huge sums from us to prevent this trade whilst actively encouraging the illegals to cross the Channel knowing we are too soft to send them straight back!

  6. Rachel Robinson says:

    Well said ❤

  7. Stephen Rennie says:

    The RNLI has my full support, asking for immigration status from a drowning person is only a racist dream of the Daily Mail.

  8. Paul Crofts says:

    Thank you RNLI. A principled, ethical and humane response to help those in need who have a right under international to seek asylum in the UK by any means and are breaking no laws. Until there are safe and “legal” routes to seek asylum in the uk (there are none currently) desperate people will use desperate means.

  9. Dana Givan says:

    Well done RNLI. I’ll continue to support your work. It is mind boggling the amount of folk think people choose these routes for leisure rather than desperate need to be safe, feed their families, escape violence. Anyone drowning is devastating.

  10. Cate Knox says:

    Well said RNLI: Lets hope the following remains true:
    The Home Office says the new bill targets ‘ruthless criminal gangs’ and that organisations and individuals will be able to continue to rescue those in danger in the sea!

  11. Heather Rogers says:

    Thank you, RNLI, for having principles. I haven’t supported your work before but I shall now.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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