ALMOST 600 people have been rescued in the Mediterranean in the Irish Naval Service's latest mission off the coast of Libya.
The LE Eithne picked up 593 desperate migrants in the dramatic nine-hour rescue operation that began in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Crew members in protective suits took 101 migrants from one rubber craft, before targeting five other vessels.
A total of 496 men, 92 women and five children were brought to safety from the various small crafts they were using about 50 miles off from the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
The LE Eithne has been heavily involved in rescue operations since it was deployed in May to provide assistance to Italian authorities in humanitarian search and rescue operations.
To date, the crew have rescued more than 2,500 people.
Just last week, they brought 519 people to safety as the EU seeks to clamp down on illegal human trafficking.
Yesterday's rescue comes as part of Operation Triton, which is being conducted by the European Union's border security agency to tighten controls against the smuggling of people into Italy.
It involves voluntary contributions from 15 European countries amid warnings that as many as 500,000 migrants could attempt to make the crossing this summer.