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Sunday 20 August 2017

LÉ Niamh en route to fourth mission after rescuing 380 people adrift in Mediterranean

A young girl is held by a crew member of the LÉ Niamh Credit: Irish Defence Forces
A young girl is held by a crew member of the LÉ Niamh Credit: Irish Defence Forces

David Kearns

The Irish navy vessel LÉ Niamh has come to the aid of 380 people today in three different rescue operations.

Arriving at the scene off the north east coast of Tripoli at around 8am, its crew deployed two rigid-hull inflatables to help bring aboard the adrift migrants.

Some 107 men, 14 women and three children were rescued and given food, water and medical assistance.

The LÉ Niamh crew then made its way to a second operation shortly before 11am, according to a spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces.

Two rhibs were deployed to bring the 124 people aboard Credit: Irish Defence Forces
Two rhibs were deployed to bring the 124 people aboard Credit: Irish Defence Forces

A further 127 migrants were taken aboard the Irish navy vessel, which swiftly travelled to its third operation of the day.

Some 129 were successfully rescued from a deflating rubber craft, with the assistance of the Italian naval vessel, ITS ALESIO.

A total of 380 migrants on board are currently receiving water, food and medical assistance where required.

This latest rescue comes as Europe struggles to cope with the huge numbers of people heading north from the Mediterranean.

Two crew members examine a rescued man Credit: Irish Defence Forces
Two crew members examine a rescued man Credit: Irish Defence Forces

On Thursday, Croatia announced it was closing seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia.

Officials said they had no choice after more than 13,000 people entered the country since Hungary fenced off its border with Serbia earlier this week.

Ireland is to extend its presence in the Mediterranean, Defence minister Simon Coveney confirmed.

The LÉ Samuel Beckett will take over operations in the Mediterranean from the end of September, replacing the LE Niamh, and will deploy until the end of November - depending on operational demands.

“The success of the operations carried out to date by LE Eithne and LE Niamh involving recovering over 6,000 migrants demonstrates clearly the value of Ireland’s participation in this important humanitarian response.”

"I believe that we should continue to support Italy in a practical manner as far as possible and the Italian authorities have indicated that ongoing support is welcome," said Mr Coveney.

The LÉ NIAMH is currently en route to the Italian Coast Guard vessel, CP906, where it is expected to receive the transfer of more migrants. Updates will follow.

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