Mark Eastwood has praised local RNLI volunteers for their work raising awareness throughout Kirklees of the risks taken by lifeboat crews.
Mark attended veteran volunteer Andy Ingham's fascinating talk on Kirklees' links to lifeboats all over the country at Emley Community Centre and made sure to let the community know in the next issue of local magazine Emley Voices
Read Mark's article here:
During Summer recess I have had the opportunity to attend some of the events in the community that I often have to miss whilst in Parliament.
One such event that I've attended recently was a fascinating talk at Emley Community Centre by local RNLI volunteer Andy Ingham. The talk focused on the connections that Kirklees has to life boats all around the country going back over 100 years. People in our area have been extraordinarily generous - from community fundraising to single benefactors funding lifeboats in memory of loved ones - and it's clear that people have understood the importance of the RNLI's mission to save lives at sea.
In recent months, the RNLI have attracted criticism from some areas of the media for rescuing migrants in the channel who get into trouble in unsafe boats. It's understandable that some people might think that the RNLI are acting in a political capacity with this, but the presentation I attended really hit home that this couldn't be farther from the truth.
We know, of course, that these crossings are facilitated by criminals who don't care about the safety of the people on board. That's why people across the political spectrum agree that they need to be stopped. Nobody wants to see any lives lost at sea, and it would be better if desperate people were not paying smugglers thousands to take the risk in the world's busiest shipping lane.
Anyone who attended couldn't have failed to have been moved by the stories of the risks that lifeboat volunteers take every time they care called out. Being a lifeboat volunteer is often a family activity - sons and daughters of volunteers sign up themselves when they're old enough, and we learned about communities that still supported the lifeboat volunteers when there had been a catastrophic loss of their loved ones that devastated the whole community.
There is no judgement from the lifeboat volunteers about the reasons people need rescuing - it could be that someone has floated out to sea on a blow up lilo by being careless, or they didn't do the right safety checks on their sailing boat, or that they have gone fishing in weather conditions that were excessively risky. Someone may have been taken suddenly ill at sea leaving nobody capable in charge of the boat, or there may have been a mechanical failure. Whether it's one of these reasons, or whether it's an unsuitable dinghy run by criminals, the RNLI don't check before risking their own lives to help. Just like the other people we rely on in emergencies – doctors and nurses, police and firefighters – they help everyone in need without checking how they got there.
I was concerned that the negative coverage might have caused donations to suffer for this entirely worthy cause, but I was very pleased when Andy told me that donations had in fact increased, and that it’s clear to their donors that the RNLI’s priority is simply to save lives.
Now that Parliament has returned I have no doubt that the issue of illegal migration will continue to come up. It’s important that we act with compassion to those fleeing persecution, but that we don’t protect a business model for criminal gangs who exploit people willing to pay. Regardless of how we eventually tackle the boat crossings, the RNLI will continue to have my support for their help for all in danger at sea.