LÉ Eithne plays key role as 6,000 more migrants rescued
The Irish Naval Service vessel LÉ Eithne is expected to arrive at an Italian port with almost 400 migrants rescued at sea over the weekend.
This brings to 1,150 the total number of migrants that the Irish ship has saved since it departed from Cork on May 15.
On Saturday, the crew rescued 310 migrants from a barge. From there they went on to rescue 89 more people from two “inflatable crafts” just 75km north of Libya.
The Irish team were then instructed to bring the 280 men, 78 women and 41 children on board to the Italian port of Taranto.
On Friday, they had rescued 113 migrants who were on-board an inflatable boat north of Tripoli. To date, they have participated in seven rescue operations directed by the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees believes that up to 90,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa since the beginning of this year. More than 1,800 are believed to have drowned or are missing at sea.
Almost 6,000 people were rescued over the weekend. The Italian coastguard – which coordinates rescue efforts from Rome – said British, Swedish, Spanish and Italian ships and a merchant vessel had all been called on to go to the aid of 15 different boats yesterday, rescuing 2,400 people in all.
On Saturday, 3,500 migrants were rescued about 45 miles from the Libyan coast.
Italian centre-right politicians have vowed that their regions will no longer shelter the thousands who are arriving there from unseaworthy boats which have been launched by Libya-based smugglers.
Mayors of towns and cities in the south have been warning for months that they have run out of room for migrants who disembark in Sicily and other southern ports after rescues by Italian and other European military vessels, as well as cargo ships and boats run by humanitarian organisations.
At the G7 summit in Germany, British Prime Minister David Cameron said his nation would no longer “walk on by” when people are in danger.