Please select your home edition
Edition app (top)

RYA welcomes Government assurance that changes to Immigration Act will not criminalise boaters

by Royal Yachting Association 25 Nov 2021 19:03 GMT

Recreational boaters will be able to rescue those in distress as they do now

The Home Office has confirmed to the RYA that the amendments the Government is making to section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971 are only intended to apply to those who unlawfully assist immigration and help asylum seekers to enter the UK.

A Home Office Spokesman has told the RYA that: "Ruthless criminal gangs are putting lives at risk by smuggling people across the Channel, which is why we're changing the law so they could face life in prison. Organisations and individuals will be able to continue to rescue those in distress at sea as they do now."

Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for the Home Department, Tom Pursglove MP told the Nationality and Borders Bill committee hearing on 28 October that the Government recognised the bravery of volunteers working for the RNLI and lifeboat crews who undertake vital work in protecting lives at sea.

It was the intention to amend the Bill to ensure that organisations such as the RNLI, those directed by Her Majesty's Coastguard, and individuals who fulfil their obligations in rescuing those in distress at sea may continue as they do now. At the same time, the Government had to ensure that it did not inadvertently provide loopholes to be exploited by criminal gangs who will look for any means to avoid prosecution.

The amendment will mean that recreational boaters who provide voluntarily assistance to migrants in distress in accordance with the humanitarian spirit of the SOLAS Convention and land them in the UK will not risk criminal liability.

Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager, said: "With the increasing number of refugees and migrants making their way to the UK in unsuitable and overcrowded boats, we are frequently asked to provided clarification on what should be done if boaters come across such a vessel.

"It has to be morally right that where a boat can provide voluntary help then it can do so without fear of landing on the wrong side of the law. We recognise that the obligation set out in SOLAS to provide assistance is not absolute. A small recreational boat is unlikely to be able to provide meaningful assistance to a boat carrying a significant number of migrants and it is quite possible that the rescuing crew could put themselves in unreasonable danger if they attempt to provide assistance."

Further advice on the obligations the SOLAS convention expects of us when encountering those who are in peril on the sea can be found at

Love Boating? Then why not join the association that promotes and protects, safe, successful and rewarding British boating. Join today and support the RYA in protecting your boating rights and freedoms. Take advantage of free advice and support on all aspects of your boating, as well as enjoying a range of fantastic personal member offers. Find out more by calling 02380 604 159, email or visit

Related Articles

Harriet Averns named RYA Yachtmaster of the Year
Presented with the prestigious trophy by Richard Falk 25-year-old Kent sailor, Harriet Averns has been named as the recipient of the RYA Yachtmaster® of the Year award for her exceptional demonstration of sailing skills during her RYA Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence exam. Posted on 13 Jan
RYA welcomes new Chief Executive Sara Sutcliffe
A new year... and a new CEO at the RYA's helm It's a new year and 'all change' at the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) as the team today welcomes Sara Sutcliffe MBE as the organisation's new Chief Executive. Posted on 10 Jan
VAT changes to affect recreational boat owners
Confirmation of a Returned Goods Relief waiver is "outstanding news" The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) reported the Government's intention to waive the three-year condition for Returned Goods Relief (RGR) on the 09 December. Posted on 20 Dec 2021
RYA welcomes returned goods relief waiving intent
The draft legislation will amend reference documents for The Customs Regulations 2020 Following a meeting between the RYA and HMRC on 17 November, we welcome the government's intent to waive the 3-year condition for RGR for pleasure craft that are the personal property of a UK resident which are being returned to the UK for personal use. Posted on 9 Dec 2021
Environment Agency proposed registration charges
Changes made after the Royal Yachting Association concerns are listened to The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) welcomes the final outcome given that it had made clear that an opportunity had been missed to create a strategic and viable financial plan for EA waterways. Posted on 7 Dec 2021
FREE ticket to first ever BoatLife Live boat show
Exclusively for RYA Members The RYA is pleased to announce that all members are now able to take advantage of one FREE ticket to the new BoatLife Live Boat Show taking place from 17 - 20 February 2022 at the NEC Birmingham, in the heart of the midlands. Posted on 5 Dec 2021
RYA Volunteer Awards
HRH The Princess Royal celebrates boating's outstanding volunteers Dedicated volunteers from across the UK were awarded for their exceptional commitment and achievements in boating last week (19 November) by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Posted on 25 Nov 2021
RYA renews commitment to reducing carbon emissions
By adopting the United Nations Sports for Climate Action's new target RYA is proud to renew the commitment to reducing carbon emissions by adopting the United Nations Sports for Climate Action's new targets of reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, and of reaching net zero emissions by 2040. Posted on 9 Nov 2021
Sign up for the RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference
The hybrid 2021 edition kicks off on Monday 8th November Following on from the success of the RYA's first-ever virtual Affiliated Clubs Conference last year, the hybrid 2021 edition kicks off on 8th November with a live online evening hosted by double Olympic gold medallist and broadcaster Shirley Robertson. Posted on 3 Nov 2021