Mark Dowie, the head of the RNLI has defended his lifeboat crews who help rescue migrants at sea, after it emerged some were being abused by the public
Mark Dowie, the charity’s chief executive spoke out as record numbers of migrants cross the English Channel.
He said that he recognised the migrant crisis was a “polarising issue”, but said that the lifeboat crews of the RNLI carry out “humanitarian work of the highest order”.
The Home Office said that the RNLI carried out “vital work” in protecting lives.
Lifeboat rescue teams which are called into the English Channel from both Kent and Sussex have told the BBC that they are faced with desperate situations, some which include “terrified” and suffering children.
Mr Dowie said that: “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.”
This comes after over 430 migrants had sailed across the English Channel to the UK earlier this month, the number set a new record for a single-day, passing the previous daily high of 416 set within September last year.
A London RNLI crew has hit out on social media at the weekend following volunteers from their team being verbally assaulted by members of the public.
Another RNLI volunteer, who did not wish to be named, said that on one occasion when bringing rescued migrants ashore his team had been confronted with an “angry mob” who shouted “go back to France”.
“It’s one of the most upsetting things I’ve ever seen,” the crew member said.
“I can’t imagine what those families felt like, coming ashore to that after the night they’d had.”
Another lifeboat volunteer said beachgoers once hurled abuse at a group of rescued migrant women and children, and “some drunken yob threw a beer can at them”.
Mr Dowie said RNLI volunteers simply wanted to prevent people dying at sea.
He said: “Our volunteers get out of bed in the middle of the night, leave their employment, leave their families, and go out and do this because they believe in doing the right thing.”
He said it was a “very frightening environment”.
The migrants’ dinghies are often overloaded and inadequate for such a “perilous” journey, and people suffer exposure, dehydration, sunstroke and sea sickness, he added.
This comes after Iceland and Greene King have said they have had to shut shops and pubs due to staff shortages caused by the NHS Covid app. Greene King has closed 33 of its pubs in the past week due to staff self-isolating due to the app.
More than 9,000 people have crossed the Channel so far this year on board small boats, including more than 3,300 in July alone.
Another crew member said: “The children are normally terrified, screaming and crying. We need to help. No-one deserves to drown because of where they come from.”
Dan O’Mahoney, clandestine channel threat commander, said: “We are proud to work alongside RNLI crews in their vital work to protect lives at sea.
“This unacceptable rise in dangerous small boat crossings is fuelled by serious organised criminals who profit from human misery and put lives at risk.”