Rachel Lowden and her friend Jane Grimshaw created Hastings Supports Refugees, a project made up of volunteers who give migrants crossing the English Channel warm clothes and food when they arrive
A group of volunteers has been bringing migrants crossing the English Channel warm clothes, emergency supplies and hot food – including fish and chips.
The charitable initiative was founded by Rachel Lowden, 46, after she and her daughter Ella, 19, witnessed the arrival of a dinghy with 60 people on board in Hastings this summer.
When she understood what was happening, the woman went home, got some blankets and clothes, then went to chip shops to buy some food for the migrants – and she also called her friends to help.
On the boat, there were people from Syria, Iran and Eritrea, including eight children under the age of 10, she said.
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Ms Lowden told The Times : “I was told by the police that Border Force had said, ‘Leave them to drift; there’s a thousand people travelling across today and we can’t deal with it’.
“The police decided to bring the boat ashore because of the volume of children on it and the lifeboat reporting they had been at sea for 18 hours.”
After witnessing the arrival of such a high number of migrants, Ms Lowden set up Hastings Supports Refugees with her friend Jane Grimshaw, 52.
The group is made up of volunteers who bring migrants arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel warm clothes, blankets and underwear – as well as hot food and drinks – before they are taken to Dover by Border Force officials for processing.
Ms Lowden explained: “We didn’t anticipate so many boats would be coming in, so we’re working hard to form good relationships with the police and coastguard so they know we’re not there to interrupt them. It’s just literally about giving them immediate aid.”
Her friend Ms Grimshaw said volunteers were also able to put a teenager who had travelled from Syria on his own in touch with his parents.
Hastings Supports Refugees has now launched a fundraiser to help support refugees and asylum seekers in Hastings and abroad.
Today, French authorities said a total of 243 migrants were rescued in the English Channel on Friday and Saturday while trying to cross to Britain from France in makeshift boats.
After many boats were reported in distress on Friday night, rescue operations continued into Saturday evening, the prefecture for the Channel and North Sea said in a statement.
The migrants were brought back to the French ports of Boulogne, Dunkirk, Calais and handed over to border police and rescue crews, it said.
France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin earlier this week blamed Britain for the migrant crisis, saying Britain’s labour laws encouraged migrants to attempt the perilous crossing of the Channel by dinghy.
French police say that while they are preventing more dinghies from making the crossing, they can only slow the numbers.
More than 24,700 people have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel – almost three times the number there were in 2020.
It is thought at least 10 migrants have died in the past few weeks while trying to make the dangerous crossing.