The Naval Service will extend its humanitarian operations in the Mediterranean Sea until the end of November and will send a third ship on the EU-led mission.
The Government has approved a recommendation by Minister for Defence Simon Coveney to extend the mission from the end of September to November 30.
LÉ Niamh, which is working on migrant rescues between the coasts of Libya and Sicily, will end its tour of duty at the end of this month and will be replaced by the navy’s second newest vessel LÉ Samuel Beckett.
“The success of the operations carried out to date by LÉ Eithne and LÉ Niamh involving recovering migrants demonstrates clearly the value of Ireland’s participation in this important humanitarian response,” said Mr Coveney.
LÉ Niamh departed its base at Haulbowline Island, near Cobh on July 10 and took over operations from the navy’s flagship LÉ Eithne, which had previously saved the lives of 3,377 migrants.
It had been stationed in the Mediterranean since the middle of June and the crew received a rapturous welcome home from families and friends when docking in Haulbowline on July 19.
Under the command of lieutenant commander Daniel Wall LÉ Niamh’s 57-strong crew, which includes two army medics, have to date rescued 1,997 migrants from a variety of unseaworthy vessels.
The ship’s last rescue occurred on August 23 when its crew brought onboard 225 migrants who were crammed into two leaking inflatable rafts 112km north-east of Tripoli.
The Naval Service’s actions are being co-ordinated in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian authorities and Mr Coveney said they have indicated that ongoing support is welcome.
“While our role in the Mediterranean is making an impact in the short term in terms of saving lives, longer term solutions to address the migrant crisis are needed,” Mr Coveney said.
He said he will meet EU colleagues in Luxembourg today to discuss a range of issues including progress of the EU military mission in the Mediterranean.
He said a comprehensive approach is required to develop longer-term solutions to the migrant crisis.
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