Refugee Rescue notes with concern the ongoing situation of people seeking asylum attempting to make sea crossings to the United Kingdom via the English Channel.
As a Search and Rescue mission operating on the island of Lesvos, Greece, we know all too well the potentially fatal consequences of vulnerable persons making such journeys, without proper equipment and adequate sea-faring knowledge. Sailing the stretch of water between England and France, in a vessel not fit for purpose, poses an extreme risk to those attempting to do so.
"As an experienced maritime search and rescue professional, this situation is terrifying. The dangers involved in crossing the Channel in an open dinghy are immense; unforgiving seas, cold weather, un sea-worthy boats and busy shipping lanes are just a few of the dangers these people will face. Lives will be lost unless we act appropriately, and swiftly" - Richie Heard, Head of Operations (Refugee Rescue)
Governmental and maritime agencies must urgently seek to coordinate a response in accordance with international maritime law - and in collaboration with humanitarian actors - recognising that in a situation of distress at sea, there is an obligation to assist. Regardless of nationality or status.
Refugee Rescue fully supports the rights of people to seek refuge anywhere in the world - including in the United Kingdom - and we call on the UK government to make all efforts to ensure the safe passage of people to UK shores.
“That people who have already fled their homes are being forced into fragile inflatable rubber dinghies, risking their lives in a bid to have their asylum claims heard, is a heavy indictment of our current approach to migration. If we are to prevent lives being needlessly lost, it is of vital importance we recognise fear-mongering and party-politics have no place here: this is a question of humanity” - Hannah Wallace Bowman, Programme Director (Refugee Rescue)