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RNLI chief executive said the charity should be "very proud" of the work it does after "migrant taxi service" slur

SA Updated
RNLI chief executive said the charity should be "very proud" of the work it does after "migrant taxi service" slur

The charity's chief executive, Mark Dowie, former lifeboat operations manager at Salcombe RNLI, said he “could not be prouder” of crews going out to rescue those in distress.

Mark Dowie, who served as lifeboat operations manager in Salcombe for two years before being made the RNLI's chief executive in May 2019, has given his full support to his crews for stepping in and saving the lives of those people who cross the Channel in small boats. 

He 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.

“These islands have the reputation for doing the right thing and being decent societies, and we should be very proud of the work we’re doing to bring these people home safe.”

The RNLI first stepped in to rescue refugees and migrants in small dinghies five years ago, but their call outs to this type of rescue has increased over the past two years, especially between Kent and East Sussex. 

Dowie said he had spoken to crew members who shared “harrowing” details of “an appalling melting pot of possible risks” to understand the plight facing migrants and wanted to share these more widely. “I understand it’s a polarising and complex situation,” he said. “But unless you’ve experienced being in an open boat in the waves, it’s quite hard to get a feel for what it must be like.”

The RNLI has released testimonies by crew members to shed light on the dangerous situations these people find themselves in. They include "people lost in the ocean for 30 hours in -2C (28.4F) temperatures in January", "families suffering from severe heatstroke and sea sickness on sweltering summer days", "people travelling on unseaworthy vessels such as inflatable dinghies, sailing catamarans and canoes", or people  "floating on the broken remnants of boats without any lifejackets, hoping to be saved".

One volunteer described an especially harrowing encounter: “They’d paddled this thing about 80 per cent of the way across the Channel and they’d been doing this all night. They’d made it into the middle of the shipping lane, and they were just so exhausted they couldn’t go on and they had nothing left and they’d stopped. When we got there, they were so tired they hardly reacted to us.”

Our local RNLI crews are all volunteers who will respond to their beeper at any time of the day or night, in any weather, to go and risk their lives for people in danger on the sea. No matter who they are, where they're from, or how they have ended up in the situation they're in. 

Since the comments were made by Nigel Farage, the RNLI has received an extra £200,000 in donations in 24 hours. If you would like to donate to the RNLI, visit their website: rnli.org/support-us/give-money/donate

Image: screenshot from RNLI video in Tweet above - credit RNLI 

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