For a small country Ireland has always punched above its weight on humanitarian issues with relief charities like Concern and GOAL based there and many Irish aid workers deployed in the world’s trouble spots. Likewise the small (and unresourced) Irish Defence Forces have taken part in UN Peacekeeping operation in the Congo, Cyprus, Lebanon and on the Golan Heights. Partly it is a result of Ireland’s history and the collective folk memory when famine and emigration stalked the land, party it is because Ireland’s traditional neutrality and lack of colonial history raises no hackles and partly their Defence Forces are regarded as well trained and professional. Now Ireland’s small navy has won widespread praise for its efforts as part of the multi-national force assisting migrants in the Mediterranean.
Irish vessel LÉ Eithne has now rescued more than 1,000 migrants stranded in the Mediterranean. This weekend alone the Irish crew has rescued over 500 people. Morale on board the LÉ Eithne is said to be high this weekend, as officers in the Mediterranean have now rescued more than 1,000 migrants. The Irish crew set out on their mission last month and are working as part of a European wide effort to prevent loss of life in the region.
Unprecedented numbers of migrants, desperate to leave war-torn countries, are getting into difficulty on the water. This weekend alone the Irish crew has rescued over 500 people who had been stranded as they attempted to get to mainland Europe from Libya. Last night an operation involving all European vessels in the region continued to help those on board 14 vessels floating adrift at sea. Captain David Barry is managing the LÉ Eithne from the Irish Naval Base in Cork. He says it has been a difficult task for his crew.
— Philip Bromwell (@philipbromwell) June 7, 2015
The Immigrant Council of Ireland says the actions of the crew of the Irish Navy and LÉ Eithne goes to show operations of its kind are needed in the Mediterranean. The crew of LÉ Eithne rescued 105 people on a small craft on Friday and transferred them overnight to the Italian ship the Fenice. Yesterday they successfully located and rescued a barge with approximately 310 people on board, around 50km north of the city of Zuwarah, Libya after they had initiated a distress call.
— Irish Defence Forces (@defenceforces) June 7, 2015
A further 89 migrants were rescued on Saturday evening, some 75km north of Libya. There are currently 399 rescuees on board the ship, with crew members awaiting direction from the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre. The LÉ Eithne departed Irish shores on 16th of May with 68 Irish sailors and two army medics on board – the first time an Irish vessel has been deployed in an operation of this kind.
Almost 2,000 people have drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean between Africa and Europe so far this year, as they attempted to flee war-torn countries. The advent of summer has brought calmer water conditions and with them an increase in the numbers willing to attempt the perilous journey.
— Angus Robertson (@AngusRobertson) June 7, 2015
That disaster prompted European governments to significantly increase search and rescue operations between Italy and North Africa. However, they have been unable to agree on a longer-term strategy to ease the migration crisis, which aid workers blame on conflicts that have created more displaced people around the world than at any time since the end of WWII.