The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has raised more than £ 200,000 in a single day after defending its work to rescue migrants at risk of drowning in the English Channel, while volunteer surveys have nearly quadrupled.
The RNLI said it had been inundated with donations and messages of support since its chief executive denounced Nigel Farage’s claim that he ran a “migrant taxi service.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Mark Dowie, the managing director of the RNLI, said it was the association’s moral and legal duty to save migrants in danger at sea, and that he was very proud of his work. humanitarian.
The RNLI, which operates the UK’s network of volunteer lifeboats, said it received £ 200,000 in charitable donations on Wednesday – around 30 times its normal average of £ 6,000-7,000 a day. During the same period, there was a 270% increase in the number of people viewing volunteer opportunities on its website.
Jayne George, director of fundraising for the RNLI, said the donations came from a mix of one-time payments, new supporters and people increasing their regular contribution.
She said: “We are overwhelmed by the enormous level of support we have received over the past two days. It was never a fundraising campaign – we just wanted to tell the story of our crew and make it clear that our charity exists to save lives at sea. Our mission is to save everyone. The kindness of our supporters means a lot to us. Without them we could not save lives at sea; each is a lifeline.
George said a small number of supporters had withdrawn their support in response to the “polarizing question.”
The government has distanced itself from criticism of the association. Boris Johnson spokesman said the group had done “vital work to protect the lives of people at sea”, and that migrants’ journeys across the Channel were “dangerous and unnecessary”. He said the government was working to “tackle the problem” by prosecuting the gangs and drivers involved.
Downing Street did not say whether Johnson followed the lead of Health Secretary Sajid Javid by donating to the RNLI.
Speaking to LBC, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said he did not believe that a “robust approach” to prevent small boats from crossing the Channel was at odds with “heart and soul From the RNLI.
He said: “I think they are operating under legal rules and this is part of this country. We are a country with a big heart. At the same time, if we are talking about the larger issue of small boats, this is something we have to tackle as hard as humanly possible, working with our French partners.
The charity’s work has also been widely praised on social media, and it has been trending on Twitter, with people like Nicola Sturgeon and Gary Lineker showing their support.
Nigel Farage appeared on GB News Wednesday night and maintained his suggestion that the RNLI was being used as a “taxi service” for illegal trafficking gangs.
He said he had “immense admiration” for the organization but believed it was “doing the wrong thing” in rescuing migrants, and that this resulted in “division in coastal communities”.
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Angela Rayner, tweeted: “I would love to see Nigel Farage put his life on the line to save others rather than being a rental company on TV, but I won’t hold my breath.
“It is not patriotic to want people fleeing war, persecution and violence to drown in the sea off the coast of Britain. In fact, he is fundamentally non-British, given that we were an integral part of the drafting and signing of the UN Refugee Convention.
As part of its drive to educate the public about the importance of its humanitarian work, the RNLI released harrowing footage of a rescue at sea. It also shared testimonials from volunteers detailing the desperate state of being in. find the people they meet, as well as the “vile abuse” they sometimes encounter on the beach.
Dan O’Mahoney, Home Office Underground Channel Threat Commander, said: “We are proud to be working alongside the RNLI teams. This unacceptable increase in dangerous small boat crossings is fueled by serious organized criminals who take advantage of human misery and put lives at risk. That is why we must spare no effort to fight these ruthless gangs, break their criminal business model and end this cycle of illegal crossings to save lives.