herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Rescued migrants won't have automatic admission to Ireland

Naval Service flagship the LE Eithne will help in the search-and-rescue sweeps off southern Italy
Naval Service flagship the LE Eithne will help in the search-and-rescue sweeps off southern Italy

THE hundreds of refugees likely to be rescued in the Mediterranean by the Naval Service flagship LE Eithne will not secure an automatic right of admission to Ireland.

The revelation came as Taoiseach Enda Kenny defended the Government's decision to admit only 300 Mediterranean migrants despite EU predictions that up to 20,000 may enter Europe via Greece, Italy and Malta this year alone.

The LE Eithne, which left Cork on Saturday for an eight-week search-and-rescue mission off southern Italy, is capable of rescuing 400 migrants in a single operation.

Mr Kenny's comments came as he said it was "a proud day for Ireland" to be able to dispatch the LE Eithne on the Naval Service's first overseas humanitarian mission.

commitment

The ship and her 69 crew will operate under the direction of the Italian coast guard and navy.

"We have agreed to take 300 refugees. Obviously the Ministers for Justice, Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Government will look at this very carefully," Mr Kenny told the Herald.

"It is a small number but it is an important number and it is a recognition of our commitment to dealing with our fellow man where there is a problem.

"We are also committed to taking 200 from Syria and we have taken numbers of those already. Given our history, we are happy to do that."

The Taoiseach travelled to Cork to wish the LE Eithne, under Cmdr Pearse O'Donnell, and her crew well in the mission.

LE Eithne, which is equipped with four navy and army medics, will be replaced by another Irish vessel in the Mediterranean in July as part of Ireland's EU/UN commitment to helping Italy deal with the flood of refugees from North Africa.

Extreme summer heat and Mediterranean storms are expected to be the major challenges facing LE Eithne.

Cmdr O'Donnell vowed that "the LE Eithne and her crew will do Ireland proud."

Operations director Lt Shane Mulcahy said the LE Eithne is stocked with food, water, clothing, medicines and supplies including baby formula.

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