Ireland and its micro Navy have been punching well above their weight in their humanitarian mission to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean. The LÉ Eithne and her 69-strong crew were given a heroes’ welcome home, after a nine-week Mediterranean mission in which the Naval Service vessel saved almost 3,400 refugees.
A big welcome to Cork Harbour earlier from our tug "Gerry O'Sullivan" for the brand new naval vessel, LÉ James Joyce pic.twitter.com/1LyZFMHsiN
— Port of Cork (@PortofCork) July 17, 2015
The 31-year-old ship was cheered to the echo as it berthed at Haulbowline Naval Base in Cork – with parents, wives, children, friends and navy comrades eagerly gathered at the dockside. Many carried flags and home-made banners to welcome the crew back to Ireland. Defence Minister Simon Coveney and Naval Service Commodore Hugh Tully formally welcomed Cmdr Pearse O’Donnell and his crew.
— Paul Byrne (@PaulByrne_1) July 17, 2015
LÉ Eithne completed 22 rescues and saved 3,377 people including 170 children. There was a double celebration for the navy as the €62m new patrol vessel, LÉ James Joyce, was also officially delivered from Babcock Marine in the UK. For LÉ Eithne’s crew the most important tributes came from the loved ones gathered impatiently on the dockside.
— Fiona Donnelly (@FionaDonnelly96) July 17, 2015
The ships arrived at Roches Point to a spectacular water display from Port of Cork tug “Gerry O’Sullivan” and the “Alex” tug.
— Random Irish News (@randomirishnews) July 18, 2015
See: Irish Navy in the Mediterranean
The LÉ Eithne is being replaced by the LÉ Niamh, which will remain in the Mediterranean until September and is already on station in Malta.
On the same day the Irish Government has agreed to accept up to 600 additional Syrian and Eritrean migrants over the next two years as part of a European Union relocation plan to deal with the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.
— Irish Embassy Malta (@IrishEmbMalta) July 17, 2015
Britain, which also has an automatic opt-out, has ruled out participating in the scheme. A mandatory quota system for accepting migrants was rejected by leaders at last month’s EU summit; instead a voluntary system to relocate 40,000 migrants was agreed, with most member states expected to participate in the scheme. Because the so-called Dublin convention states that migrants must seek asylum in the EU country where they first arrive, this will be the first time the EU has initiated a relocation scheme of this kind.
Under the initiative, migrants will apply for refugee status in the country where they first arrive, but the “host” country will process the application. 600 refugees may not seem much but it is 600 more than Xenophobic countries such as Britain, Hungary and Bulgaria are taking.