Days of poor weather in the Mediterranean have lifted, with calmer seas prompting people smugglers back into action and leading to the Naval Service picking up more refugees packed into deathtrap vessels.
The crew of LÉ Samuel Beckett were called into action at 5am Irish time yesterday saving 52 men and 33 women in a 12-metre-long dinghy which was 56km north-east of the Libyan capital Tripoli.
A short time later the ship’s crew again launched Ribs (rigid inflatable boats) to a similar-sized dinghy, this time crammed with even more migrants. They brought a further 97 men, six children and 30 women, one of whom was heavily pregnant, back to the ship.
After providing all 218 refugees with food, water and medical attention, the crew then transferred them to an Italian coastguard vessel which took them to an Italian port. A decision was made to keep LÉ Samuel Beckett in its area of operations because it was feared people smugglers would take advantage of the improved weather conditions to launch more vessels.
The weather had been particularly poor in recent days in the Mediterranean Sea.
The last time LÉ Samuel Beckett undertook a rescue was on October 15 when its crew took 102 migrants from a dinghy. To date, the ship has rescued 562 refugees. The Naval Service has rescued 7,959.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the latest rescues showed the need to keep the Naval Service operating in the area.
Its chief executive Brian Killoran said the naval mission is up for further review in December, but given that the numbers taking to the high seas hasn’t fallen off, he is asking the Government to keep the deployment under review and if necessary extend it into 2016.
“In the weeks ahead we look forward to the other parts of the Irish response becoming a reality including the arrival of refugees and the formation of integration policies to ensure they are given a proper opportunity to restart their lives,” Mr Killoran said.
Last night at least three refugees — a man and two small boys — drowned and the Greek coastguard rescued 242 others when their boat sank north of the island of Lesbos, authorities said.
“We do not have a picture of how many people may be missing yet,” a coastguard spokeswoman said.
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