A recent report on the TV news said that, with fine weather in the English Channel, three separate small boats filled with refugees from France had been intercepted at different points along the coast between Ramsgate and Dungeness.
A Border Force patrol boat had caught one, but the other two apparently had to be “rescued” by lifeboats – but is this what lifeboats should be doing?
Various government announcements have said that the Border Force was getting more boats – but smaller, faster ones based on an RIB design like Rye’s lifeboat rather than the traditional cutter.
It was also suggested that a Royal Navy boat might be coming back from Mediterranean duties (often involving refugees there too) to help stem the flow from France.
And our local coast has been attractive for invasions – whether by the Romans, the Spaniards, the French (Napoleon) or Germans (Hitler), or for refugees (Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in past centuries, or from the Middle East today) and, of course, smugglers.
Indeed smuggling was such a problem that the Excise (see top photo) deployed seven revenue cutters (including four in Rye) between 1734 and 1833, along with three Royal Navy vessels, to sort out the smugglers.
Rye’s Castle Museum has a model of one of these cutters (see photo below), based on a Royal Navy design, so patrolling the coastline is not a new problem.
However it is tempting to ask whether the Government has put enough resources into addressing the problem, and quickly enough, and whether lifeboat services should be filling the gaps?
Once ashore refugees have often been spotted very quickly, and I am reminded of the German spy (landed from a submarine) who (allegedly) marched in World War Two into a Marsh pub very early on a Sunday morning wanting a drink – and got hanged for his mistake in the Tower of London.
So perhaps foreigners, like those DFLs (Down From London), are immediately obvious. But should our lifeboats be involved?
Image Credits: John MInter, Rye Museum / John Minter.