The RNLI should receive compensation from the Home Office for its rescues of migrants, an MP demanded yesterday.
The lifeboat charity has been called on to save many of the people crossing the Channel at a cost of at least £1,500 every time it launches vessel, Charlie Elphicke said.
More than 220 migrants have attempted to reach the UK from France in boats since November. Even though the Government has declared a ‘major incident’, the RNLI is still relied upon for many of the rescues. Its crews and staff are volunteers and it has been struggling to cope, sources said.
The lifeboat charity has been called on to save many of the people crossing the Channel at a cost of at least £1,500 every time it launches vessel, Charlie Elphicke said
Mr Elphicke, the Tory MP for Dover, said: ‘The volunteers of the RNLI always do their bit to save people at sea, but they have got to spend £1,500, at least, each time a lifeboat is launched, so it’s very important they have greater support and be compensated for the incredible work they have done over the Christmas period,’ he said.
‘It would be the right thing for the Home Office to make a generous donation.’
The RNLI has more than 4,950 volunteer lifeboat crew members and its 23,000 fundraisers helped generate £197million for the charity last year. It now has 238 lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland.
The South Coast, where most migrants have been landing, is served by stations at Dover and Deal in Kent. The active lifeboat at Dover’s RNLI station is a £2million Severn class, the largest in the fleet at 57ft.
The vessels at Walmer lifeboat station in Deal are a £214,000 B-Class boat and a £52,000 D-Class dinghy. Lifeboat crews are typically made up of locals living within five miles of a station who are notified of an emergency by mobile or pager.
Mr Elphicke said: ‘Everybody knows that most of these migrants are being rescued by the RNLI volunteer lifeboats, it is their duty to rescue anyone in distress in the high seas, wherever they may be from.
The South Coast, where most migrants have been landing, is served by stations at Dover and Deal in Kent (pictured: Kingsdown beach near Deal, Kent)
‘And that’s what they have been doing as their duty. They deserve great praise.’ Mr Elphicke said he demanded the cash be made available to the RNLI during a meeting with immigration minister Caroline Nokes in Dover on Saturday.
Of the RNLI’s income last year, £49.1million came from donations, £135.1million from legacies and £5.5million from trading activities including the charity’s 165 RNLI shops, which are run by volunteers.
The remainder came from investment and charity income, according to its accounts.
Its running costs in 2017 were £176million, and the RNLI spent £39.3million on capital expenditure, including lifeboats and launching equipment. A combined £114.6million was spent on the lifeboat service and equipment.
The RNLI, which was formed in 1824, is reckoned to have saved 140,000 lives in its history.
Mr Elphicke also called for the Government to return its two Border Force cutters from the Mediterranean to secure Britain’s coastline, and provide relief to the RNLI.
‘The first thing that needs to happen is to bring back our two boats from the Mediterranean to secure our coastlines and invest more in our border security to track down these trafficking networks,’ Mr Elphicke said.
Mr Elphicke said: ‘Everybody knows that most of these migrants are being rescued by the RNLI volunteer lifeboats, it is their duty to rescue anyone in distress in the high seas, wherever they may be from’
‘The Border Force cutters have a real role to play in acting as a strong deterrent and taking the pressure off the RNLI. I did make the case to Caroline Nokes that the RNLI have done incredible work, and that we should do the right thing by them. She listened.’
The RNLI and the Home Office did not respond to requests for comment.
- Ten alleged people smugglers have been arrested in France in just three weeks as part of a crackdown.
- Three men arrested last week and set to face trial next year are believed to be Afghan nationals who have masterminded a string of Channel crossings.
- Seven were arrested in the previous three weeks, according to the UK’s National Crime Agency.
Armed people smugglers – mainly Iraqi-Kurds – are regularly basing themselves in the makeshift camps dotted around Calais, making migrants fearful of speaking out.
The rise in attempted Channel crossings has coincided with a spike in boats stolen from Calais and the nearby port of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
‘We have lived with this problem for five or six months.’ said Etienne Caron, the harbourmaster of Calais marina.
‘It is my belief that the thefts and damage are the work of organised criminals – not big-time smugglers, just foot soldiers working to orders,’ he added.