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Irish vessel to aid migrant crisis

Published 09/05/2015

Irish Navy vessel LE Eithne will be sent to the Mediterranean to help deal with the migrant crisis
Irish Navy vessel LE Eithne will be sent to the Mediterranean to help deal with the migrant crisis

Ireland is sending a navy vessel to help with the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

The LE Eithne will take part in a mission to prevent further migrant ship tragedies, a spokesman for the Republic's Defence Forces confirmed.

Thousands were rescued and 10 bodies recovered off the Libyan coast last weekend. At least 1,750 people have died this year trying to cross the sea separating Europe from North Africa.

A Defence Forces spokesman said: "The LE Eithne is going to the Mediterranean.

"The Minister of Defence Simon Coveney said it would be ready by Friday."

Britain has pledged to send one of the Royal Navy's biggest warships to the Mediterranean in a bid to help stem the mounting loss of life among refugees fleeing the turmoil in Africa and the Middle East.

The Prime Minister was adamant that the operation to save lives did not mean Britain would offer asylum to the people it rescued, insisting that they must be dealt with in the nearest safe country to where they are picked up.

David Cameron has emphasised the need for a comprehensive approach to the issue - including taking action to address the instability in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa causing so many migrants to seek refuge in Europe.

The UN's special representative on migration, Irishman Peter Sutherland, has said asylum seekers trying to reach Europe should be processed at a country outside the EU then distributed fairly among member states.

He has also called for a quota system to be adopted by the union's 28 countries based on the size of their economies or populations. At present Germany, Sweden and Hungary are among the states taking the most refugees.

Last year 276,000 "irregular" migrants crossed the Mediterranean, Mr Sutherland said.

The EU had been accused of being too slow to react to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Recently a fishing boat carrying people from Libya sank killing up to 800, in what the UN has called the deadliest incident in the Mediterranean ever recorded.

A spokesman for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ireland's premier, said the decision to send the vessel had still to be formally approved by the Cabinet.

A spokeswoman for the Defence Department said: "We can confirm that the ship is not yet gone to the Mediterranean. Arrangements to deploy the naval vessel are currently being finalised.

"The deployment is subject to Government approval and it is intended to bring to Government shortly for final approval."

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