Royston chairman: RNLI volunteers never question or criticise - they save lives

RNLI D-Class boat

RNLI D Class boat - Credit: Copyright : Ian Foster / fozimage -

The chair of Royston' and District RNLI has responded to Nigel Farage's claim that the life-saving charity is running a “taxi service" facilitating illegal immigration into the UK. 

Mr Farage made national headlines last week after his comments - that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was being used as a "taxi service for illegal trafficking gangs".

A dinghy full of migrants being rescued by the RNLI in the English Channel. 

A Hackney man is running 100 half marathons for refugees. Pictured: A dinghy full of migrants being rescued by the RNLI in the English Channel. - Credit: PA

The claim caused a surge of support and donations to the lifeboat charity.

RNLI Royston chair Robert Squire told the Crow: "While there are a lot of differing opinions on the topic Farage referred to, the purpose of the RNLI is to save lives at sea.

"The crews often risk their own lives to help and save others in peril on the sea. In the tradition of Maritime ethos they are there to save anyone who is at risk at sea.

"They work with the other services, HM Coastguard who task them to attend, as well as the border force and other naval forces.

"They have been saving lives since 1824 and they never question or criticise anyone. Most of are them are volunteers and give up their own time to save others.

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"The RNLI are all one crew and it is a privilege to be involved with this life saving charity.

RNLI Great Yarmouth and Gorleston lifeboat.

RNLI Great Yarmouth and Gorleston lifeboat. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

"COVID has made the fundraising the RNLI relies on even more challenging but they continue to save lives for which we should all be grateful."

RNLI crew members have recounted some of their rescue operations involving migrants.

They said: "One shout that sticks out was picking up 20 or so migrants and being re-tasked still with the original migrants on board to an inflatable canoe with three [casualties] on board who had paddled to within a mile of shore with plastic paddles from France.

Maureen Fuller and Barbara Clarke, RNLI Royston

Maureen Fuller and Barbara Clarke, RNLI Royston - Credit: Archant

"All three of them were asleep within minutes of being lifted onto the lifeboat as they couldn't even stand up.

"Another one that sticks in my mind was when we started taking migrants off a rib and I was passed firstly a child about five years old followed by about a seven-year-old and his sister, then a tiny baby who the mother breastfed on our way into Dover.

Another crew member said: "My first shout at sea involved 13 human beings -  nine women and children and three men in a boat with no power drifting dangerously into the shipping lanes. Once on scene it was clear that these people were terrified and in desperate need of our help.

"I assisted with casualty care and was personally shocked at the age of the young children. The youngest must have been about four.

"The casualties were frightened, tired, dehydrated but most of all relieved. The fact that their clothes were soaked in fuel and sea water, or that they were not really understanding where they were going, didn’t seem to factor. Just mothers comforting children whether they were their own on not."

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie said: "I could not be prouder of our amazing volunteer lifeboat crews, who launch to the aid of anyone who is in trouble in or around the water and needs our help. We have done this since the RNLI was founded in 1824 and this will always be our ethos.

‘Every year, our lifeboat crews and lifeguards rescue around 30,000 people. We do not judge a casualty on what circumstances have found them in trouble. 

"They go home after a shout secure in the knowledge that without their help, the person they rescued may not have been able to be reunited with their own family. That is why they do what they do.

"These same principles apply to our lifesaving work in the Channel. We do not judge those we rescue – where we believe there is a risk to life at sea, we will always launch in response to a call from HM Coastguard.

"We want to be absolutely clear that we are incredibly proud of the work our volunteer lifeboat crews do to rescue vulnerable people in distress.

"When our lifeboats launch, we operate under International Maritime Law, which states we are permitted and indeed obligated to enter all waters regardless of territories for search and rescue purposes.

"And when it comes to rescuing those people attempting to cross the Channel, we do not question why they got into trouble, who they are or where they come from. All we need to know is that they need our help."

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