RNLI donations rocket by 2,500% after Nigel Farage criticises its Channel rescues

Donations to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution have rocketed by more than 2,500% after Nigel Farage and other campaigners attacked the service for rescuing migrants crossing the English Channel.

It came after the charity’s chief executive described its role in rescuing people crossing the Channel as “humanitarian work”.

Figures show online donations to the RNLI passed the £200,000 mark in the last 24 hours, up from around £7,000 on a typical day - an increase of around 2,757%. There was also a near four-fold increase in people viewing volunteering opportunities on the sea charity’s website during the same period.

Jayne George, RNLI fundraising director, said: “We are overwhelmed with the huge level of support we have received from our amazing supporters in the last couple of days.

“We have seen an uplift in donations, with over £200,000 being donated yesterday alone through a combination of one-off donations, new regular support and supporters increasing their regular donation amount. “This is simply incredible.”

The huge jump in support came after the former Ukip and Brexit Party leader criticised the RNLI, saying it was providing a "taxi service for illegal trafficking gangs".

Amid the soaring donations came a "small number" of groups or individuals which decided to withdraw support for the charity.

The charity, which rescues people stranded at sea, began to divide opinion after its Chief Executive Mark Dowie said lifeboat crews were "doing the right thing” by going to people’s aid, regardless of their reason for being in the water".

His intervention came after a London-based crew was forced to call the police after receiving abuse at the weekend.

The RNLI said it has often received abuse for rescuing migrants in the Channel in the last five years, but the situation has become worse in the following weeks.

On Wednesday, the charity released a video explaining why it rescues asylum seekers from the English Channel.

It wrote: "Those we rescue are vulnerable people in danger & distress. Each of them is someone’s father, mother, son or daughter - every life is precious."

Following the abuse a number of prominent politicians came out to support the charity, including the health secretary and foreign secretary.

Sajid Javid, who recently took over from Matt Hancock as head of the Department for Health and Social Care, thanked the charity on Twitter, made a donation and encouraged other to do the same.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the charity was doing an "incredible job".

Responding to the spike in donations since Mr Dowie’s intervention, Ms George said: “This was never a fundraising campaign – we simply wanted to tell the story of our crews and make it clear that our charity exists to save lives at sea. “Our mission is to save every one.

“Our supporters’ kindness means so much to us, without them we could not save lives at sea, every one is a lifesaver.” She also signalled that Mr Dowie’s comments also had a negative impact on some donors. She said: “We know that this is a polarising issue and people have strong opinions on the subject. “Sadly, a small number of supporters have contacted us to withdraw their support.”