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RNLI lifeboat blocked from entering Channel over asylum seeker rescues

A man shouted "don't bring no more back home here, that's what we stopped our donations for" at the lifeboat crews.

A file photo of an RNLI lifeboat on an exercise in Penarth in September 2020. Image: Richard Szwejkowski/flickr

Police were called to Hastings beach after an RNLI lifeboat was blocked from going on an assignment because of its asylum seeker rescue missions.

In the incident, which took place days before 27 people drowned trying to cross the Channel, a man can be heard to yell: “Don’t bring no more back home here, that’s what we stopped our donations for.”

The RNLI has confirmed the incident, and said that crew were eventually able to launch the boat.

Obstructing emergency workers, including the RNLI, is an offence carrying an unlimited fine.

The incident, which took place on Saturday November 20, was revealed by a caller to LBC who said a group of fishermen blocked the boat while gutting fish – a claim denied by a fisher representative.

The caller, Zoe, told LBC host James O’Brien: “The lifeboat crew pulled the boat out and were going to go into the water and some of the fishermen deliberately came out with their buckets and stood directly in the line of the boat so the boat couldn’t be put in the water.”

She added: “It was really upsetting, and you could hear the hatred in their voice.”

The chair of the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society denied the abuse came from fishermen. Paul Joy told the Hastings & St Leonards Observer that a row erupted after a member of the lifeboat crew asked a fisherman to move his boat from the lifeboat’s path.

“The fisherman concerned was carrying his fish down to throw back in the sea – the small, undersized stuff which you should do, and the lifeboat man shouted out, screamed at him, ‘get out the way’, and he said, ‘who are you talking to?’ and that erupted into a row. But he was on his own, and the person who was having a go was a lorry driver,” said Joy.

It happened just days before 27 people lost their lives attempting to cross the Channel. Protesters outside the Home Office the following day said the deaths were a “direct result of the Hostile Environment”.

It is currently unclear what the lifeboat’s assignment was, but the RNLI said it was a search and rescue operation coordinated by HM coastguard.

An RNLI spokesperson told The Big Issue: “We can confirm an incident was reported to the police. The lifeboat was able to launch and the station remains on service.”

A Sussex Police spokesperson said: “Just after 4pm on Saturday, November 20, police were made aware of reports of a disturbance near to the Hastings RNLI Lifeboat Station.

“A police officer attended the scene while also being supported by colleagues monitoring the situation on CCTV.

“No arrests were made.”

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