Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Your heart stops in your throat' - LE Eithne crew member on rescuing migrant children from Mediterranean sea

The LE Eithne rescued men, women and children over the course of two months
The LE Eithne rescued men, women and children over the course of two months
Defence Minister Simon Coveney addresses the crew of the LÉ Niamh before they leave for the Mediterranean
Members of the Irish Navy vessel LE Eithne as they rescue refugees in the ongoing humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean (Irish Defence Forces/PA)
Hundreds of migrants sit on the deck of the LÉ Eithne after being rescued yesterday
LE Eithne rescues 113 people off Libyan coast in fifth successful rescue (Photo: Irish Defence Forces)

Cormac Fitzgerald

A crew member on the LE Eithne has said that the most striking thing about the Irish Naval Services's recent Mediterranean voyage was rescuing small children from overcrowded boats.

Lieutenant Shane Mulcahy was speaking about his experiences aboard the ship that saved a staggering total of 3,376 migrants over eight weeks.

“Your heart stops in you throat a bit because you see these small children being moved closer and closer to the edge of the boat with no life jackets on them and everybody’s distressed,” he said.

In the two months the Irish ship was at sea, it saved a staggering 3,376 migrants, including 168 children. In one 48 hour period on June 28 and 29, the ship picked up 1,240 people from eight different vessels.

Speaking on Newstalk’s The Pat Kenny Show, Lt. Mulcahy also spoke about the condition of some of migrants when the crew of the LE Eithne came across them, citing dehydration and seasickness as some of the most common problems.

“A lot of these people would have never really seen the ocean until they had arrived into Libya,” he said.

“A lot of people, they would have been distressed simply because of overcrowding on the vessel.”

Read more: Rape victims among refugees saved from the sea by LE Eithne

Read more: LÉ Eithne crew to get counselling for horrors of mission

The LE Eithne is on its return voyage to Ireland and is being replaced by the LE Niamh.

The UNHCR estimates that around 90,000 migrants have successfully crossed to Europe so far this year, either being smuggled or rescued by the ongoing rescue missions.

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