LÉ Eithne returns to sea after leaving migrants in Italy

Irish Naval Service vessel transfers 399 north Africans to authorities in port city of Taranto

To date, the LÉ Eithne which has on board a crew of 67 plus two Army medics, has rescued 1,153 migrants. Photograph: Irish Defence Forces

To date, the LÉ Eithne which has on board a crew of 67 plus two Army medics, has rescued 1,153 migrants. Photograph: Irish Defence Forces

 

The LÉ Eithne has returned to sea after disembarking 399 migrants from north Africa whom the ship’s crew rescued from the southern Mediterranean on Saturday.

The migrants were transferred on Monday morning to the care of the Italian authorities in Taranto, a port city in the heel of Italy. Later in the day, the Eithne, having refuelled, set sail again for her area of operation, the seas between southern Italy, Sicily and the north African coast.

To date, the Irish Naval Service vessel, which has on board a crew of 67 plus two Army medics, has rescued 1,153 migrants, taking them from a variety of small vessels, including barges, small fishing craft and inflatable dinghies.

None of the vessels was properly equipped for the crossing, either in terms of seaworthiness, personal floatation devices, or food and water. Many of those rescued were consequently hungry and dehydrated.

A spokesman for the Defence Forces said the Eithne would remain at sea for approximately 10 days unless the volume of rescued migrants forced the ship to return to port again.

The Eithne is working with the Royal Navy ship, HMS Bulwark, an amphibious transport dock from which smaller vessels may embark and disembark to rescue migrants from the sea, as well as German and Italian vessels. All are trying to prevent migrants drowning as they attempt to escape the problems in western Africa, north Africa, parts of east Africa and the Middle East.

Many of the migrants begin their maritime journey from Libya and are believed to have paid money to traffickers. British officials, political and military, have warned that Italy, and hence the rest of the European Union, faces a potential influx this summer of up to 500,000 migrants.