Two VIPs are back in their natural habitat thanks to the Naval Service who deposited them off the western coast of Gibraltar, on a patrol ship’s way to a migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea.

At precisely 2pm yesterday, two loggerhead turtles were released from LÉ Róisín in Atlantic waters.

The turtles had been been washed up on the Irish coast during last winter’s storms and were nursed back to health at Ocean World in Dingle.

One of them was rescued by Una Mullin at Moloney’s Beach, Barryroe, west Cork on December 28 last. She said the little turtle was limp and only weighed 15kg. Now she’s 23kg and in the peak of health.

LÉ Róisín is expected to arrive in Sicily on Friday. A Naval Service spokesman said the ship will refuel there and take on fresh supplies.

The crew will also be briefed by the Italian authorities and allocated an area to patrol off the Libyan coast.

“There has been an increase in migrant activity during April and it is expected to pick up. The EU naval force (based in the area) has recently reported picking up a lot of migrants,” the spokesman said.

Last year, the Naval Service helped rescue more than 8,000 migrants and it could well be busier this year.

Since the closure of the Turkish route into Europe, many Syrian refugees are making their way to Libya instead with the hope of entering Europe via Italy and Malta.

Many Libyan ports have large congregations of Middle Eastern and African migrants trying to make the crossing. People-smugglers will often pack them, sardine-like, on totally unseaworthy wooden barges and flimsy inflatables.

LÉ Róisín, meanwhile, is carrying a consignment of 200 “comfort Teddies.”

They were knitted by members and friends of Church of Ireland Cork, Cloyne and Ross diocese Mothers’ Union.

They will be given to rescued migrant children.

LÉ Róisín will be deployed in the Mediterranean Sea for three months.

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