The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has hit back after it received criticism for rescuing a boat in distress with 20 migrants on board.
The search and rescue charity drew criticism over the weekend after some newspapers published images of its lifeboats returning from saving people who had been attempting to cross the English Channel to the UK.
It was suggested that entering French waters to save lives was not the charity’s responsibility.
Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader and seven-time failed parliamentary candidate, posted a photo on Twitter of the Ramsgate RNLI lifeboat full of refugees and/or migrants.
He said: “Sadly the wonderful RNLI in Kent has become a taxi service for illegal immigration, to the dismay of all involved. What a state of affairs”.
The story was covered by newspapers including the Daily Mail.
But in a statement on Monday the RNLI insisted it was its mission to “save lives at sea . . . without judgment of how they came to be in the water”.
The charity group, which said it received a huge volume of comments on social media after the Mail published the article on July 2, added: “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.”
The RNLI is crewed by volunteers who give up their time & risk their lives to rescue humans without asking where they come from or why they're in danger of drowning. They would risk their lives for you. They would risk their lives for Nigel Farage, even as he mocks their mission. https://t.co/OUkNQBDfA2— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) July 5, 2021
Borders and nationality bill
The statement came on the eve of Tuesday’s publication of the highly contentious borders and nationality bill, intended to eliminate the growing use of clandestine Channel crossings by people seeking asylum in the UK.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, said on Monday that the legislation was being introduced because it was “time to act” to fix the “broken asylum system”.
She said the legislation paved the way for a “fair but firm system” that would “break the business model” of the gangs that facilitate “dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK”.
Among the bill’s provisions will be one introducing a criminal offence of entering the UK without permission.
The provision is expected to be used against many migrants arriving on small boats, although courts have traditionally interpreted the UN 1951 Refugee Convention as barring the UK from making it a criminal offence for people seeking asylum to enter the country.
Nearly all small-boat migrants claim asylum protection immediately on entering the UK.
Around 5,000 people have already arrived in small boats on the English coast this year.
Steve Crawshaw, Freedom from Torture’s policy and advocacy director, on Monday called the bill “deliberately anti-refugee”.
“The determination to criminalise those who may be fleeing torture and oppression rides roughshod over obligations which Britain helped shape and which have been in place for 70 years,” he said.