Lifesaving charity RNLI have been at the end of a relentless campaign by far-right extremist political party Britain First over their efforts to rescue people from migrant boats in the English Channel.
The charity has vowed to continue rescuing people “without judgement or preference” after it is bombarded with hateful emails, reports the Independent.
Britain First began a campaign on Thursday which involved sending emails and messages out to their supporters urging them to join a “complaints drive aimed at the RNLI to pressure them to abandon their support for illegal immigrant [sic] and people trafficking and focus instead on saving British lives”.
An automated online form was set up by the group which sends emails written by Britain First leaders to the RNLI’s chief executive, Mark Dowie.
The messages do not disclose any link to Britain First, but claim to be from “concerned citizens” and “taxpayers”.
The messages read: “I am very, very angry that RNLI boats are being used in the English Channel to ferry illegal immigrants into Britain.
“I urge you to cease these treacherous activities.”
Another option of message claims to be from someone who has “huge respect for the RNLI” but finds its “recent support for illegal immigration and people trafficking in the English Channel abhorrent”.
RNLI is tasked by HM Coastguard, but hands over responsibility for rescued migrants to relevant authorities upon reaching land.
The Independent reported that Britain First’s website claimed that almost 3,000 emails had been sent by Friday afternoon, but the figure could not be independently verified.
A spokesman for the RNLI confirmed that they had already received numerous emails generated through the group’s platform.
He said: “The RNLI is proud of the humanitarian work of its volunteer lifeboat crews in the Channel and we are grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve recently received.
“The recent tragic deaths in the Channel are a sad reminder of just how dangerous it is to go to sea in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in boats not fit for the crossing, especially as winter approaches.
“We are a voluntary lifesaving charity, and will rescue anyone in trouble at sea, as the RNLI has been doing for nearly 200 years, without judgement or preference.”
Hope Not Hate, which is a counter-extremism group has launched a petition in response to Britain First’s campaign, which allows people to send messages of solidarity with the RNLI.
Rosie Carter, its director of policy, said: “Britain First claim to love this country, but denigrate and smear any of the things that are great about it.
“RNLI is a fantastic organisation, made of volunteers who risk their lives to save people at sea. Denigrating a charity which saves lives in order to fuel anti-migrant hate is despicable.”
The RNLI has been repeatedly singled out for criticism by right-wing groups and politicians, amid record crossings over the English Channel.
Last month, a group of fishermen allegedly tried to block an RNLI lifeboat from travelling to rescue asylum seekers, days before at least 27 people drowned off the coast of Calais.
A spokesperson for RNLI confirmed the incident had been reported to the police, and that the lifeboat was eventually able to launch.