Irish navy plucks 400 migrants from Med
LE Eithne has now saved more than 1,150 people since May
The Irish naval service vessel the LE Eithne has rescued more than 500 men, women, children and infants desperately attempting to cross the Mediterranean this weekend.
Yesterday morning the ship rescued 310 migrants from a barge floating in the Mediterranean 40km north of Libya.
Then at 5pm the LE Eithne located and rescued migrants on two inflatable craft -this time with 89 persons on board - some 75 kilometres north of Libya. Conditions at the time were good and the operation took two hours.
There are now 399 rescuees on board the Irish ship who owe their lives to the skilled Irish naval services. They number 280 men, 78 women and 41 children in total.
They remained on board overnight are were being transferred to Taranto Port, Italy, where the LE Eithne is expected to arrive at 8am (Local) on June 8th.
On Friday, the LE Eithne rescued another 113 migrants adrift on a rubber inflatable dinghy north of Tripoli. They were all given food and water once they were safely on board and then transported to shore.
The LE Eithne has now saved more than 1,150 people since it left Cork three weeks ago on May 16 - sailing to assist the Italian authorities in the ongoing search- and-rescue mission in the southern Mediterranean waters.
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has praised the naval service for their continued role in assisting with the migrant crisis. "I would like to thank the crew of the LE Eithne for their outstanding work in the Mediterranean to date and to wish them continued success in their endeavours," said the minister.
He also added that the Naval Service have resumed their operations and "will continue to assist the Italian authorities in tackling this very difficult humanitarian crisis".
However, Minister Coveney also stressed that while the current activities by a number of countries, including Ireland, in the Mediterranean is welcome, "there remains a pressing need to progress a comprehensive approach to addressing this ongoing problem".
The Immigrant Council of Ireland has also commended the leadership of the LE Eithne and its crew.
Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said the Irish missions demonstrate that rescue ships must remain on the high seas. "The rescue of such large numbers of people shows that despite warnings not to make the crossing, people remain in a desperate situation and will risk everything to reach safety," he said.
Most migrants embark from Libya in unsuitable crafts, often unseaworthy and overcrowded, in a desperate attempt to reach Europe.
"At both a European level and in our own national policies, the Government must continue to keep this crisis under review to ensure rescue ships will remain on the seas as long as they are needed and that people are offered legal channels to Europe," said Mr Killoran.
Though the immigrant council acknowledges that some progress has been made in achieving those goals, it would be wrong to believe that this crisis is over.
"To do so will only see a return to the mass drownings for which the first half of 2015 will always be remembered," said Mr Killoran.
In direct response to the ongoing operations of the Irish crew, the immigrant council say the LE Eithne has brought pride not only to the navy and the Defence Forces "but to all of Ireland".
The role of the Irish naval vessel is to provide a search-and-rescue capability and to undertake humanitarian rescue operations at sea. Assistance is also provided through international governing search-and-rescue situations.
The Irish Naval Service vessel will be deployed in the Mediterranean for up to six months over the summer period, subject to demands and requirements arising in the theatre of operations.
For now, the LE Eithne has resumed patrol and expects further missions ahead.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some 90,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean this year. Almost 2,000 have drowned or been lost at sea.