RNLI defends itself against newspaper and social media accusations

The charity, which has been accused of acting as a 'taxi service for illegal immigration', says it will always launch its lifeboats when it believes there is a risk to life at sea

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution had defended its actions from accusations that is has become “a taxi service for illegal immigration”.

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 the charity defended its actions and said it was incredibly proud of the humanitarian work its volunteer lifeboat crews did to rescue vulnerable people in distress.

Many social media users also defended the charity, including one who said that the last thing the charity’s crews should have to put up with is “racists angry that they did their job”.

Others said they would donate to the charity as a result of the negative coverage.

The charity said it was unable to say whether it had seen an upturn in donations, but it had been overwhelmed by supportive messages.

“Our lifeboats operate under international maritime law, which states we are permitted and indeed obligated to enter the waters of other territories for search and rescue purposes," a statement from the charity said.

“Where we believe there is a risk to life at sea, we will always launch. HM Coastguard and the Irish Coast Guard can request any of our lifeboats to launch to an incident.

“We are not border control and, once a rescue is complete, we hand over responsibility for casualties to UK Border Force and/or the police. Our charity exists to save lives at sea. Our mission is to save everyone.

“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.”

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