The RNLI chief has hit out over the public abuse of lifeboat crews who help rescue migrants attempting to cross the English Channel.

The charity’s chief executive Mark Dowie described the migrant crisis as a “polarising issue” but defended crews who carry out “humanitarian work of the highest oerder”.

Mark Dowie, RNLI chief executive, said he felt compelled to comment after volunteers reported being heckled for bringing migrants to safety.

It comes as record numbers of migrants try to cross the potentially treacherous English Channel to get to the UK, despite vows from the Home Office to make the route from mainland Europe “unviable”.

Mr Dowie said the sea charity was “doing the right thing” by going to people’s aid, regardless of their reason for being in the water.

Oxford Mail: Footage reveals RNLI rescue missions as migrants attempt Channel crossings. (PA/RNLI)Footage reveals RNLI rescue missions as migrants attempt Channel crossings. (PA/RNLI)

He said: “The people of these islands (the UK) fundamentally are decent people, and all decent people will see this as humanitarian work of the highest order.

“Our crews should not have to put up with some of the abuse they received.”

Crews also described being on the receiving end of an “angry mob” after coming back from a rescue, with members of the public shouting at the migrants to go “back to France”.

Mr Dowie added: “We have seen the negative reaction to the issue over the course of the last five years, since this route was opened up.

“It’s polarising, but it’s humanitarian work of the highest order. That’s what we should remember.

“Our volunteers get out of bed in the middle of the night, leave their employment, leave their families, and go out and do this because they believe in doing the right thing. Never doubt their commitment to that.

“If you look at social media, around almost any issue you will find very strong views one way or the other. We are doing the right thing.”

In response to criticism, dramatic bodyworn footage of migrants being rescued by the RNLI in the English Channel has been released by the charity for the first time.

The two clips – one from earlier this month, and the other from November 2019 – each show several people cramped onto a small inflatable before being pulled to safety by lifeboat volunteers.

Both involve the rescue of several migrants, whose nationality is not known, including a baby.

People on social media have expressed their support for the charity.

One social media user wrote: “Fully support you. To be abused for saving lives sums up where some people are with their obsession about immigrants. It's like a doctor. You do your best to save lives and I commend you for it.”

“Please never apologies and please never stop. Every life is equal and deserves the same dignity,” added another.

A third added: “You have the gratitude, support and admiration of all Britons with an ounce of humanity.”