MORE than 500 migrants desperately trying to enter Europe have been rescued by the LE Eithne in three separate missions off the coast of Libya.
The Irish navy vessel has been assisting the Italian authorities in search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean for over a month now.
Since their mission began the crew has rescued more than 2,000 migrants trying to flee Africa.
In the first of the three operations, the LE Eithne located and rescued 104 migrants on an inflatable craft around 50 nautical miles north-west of Tripoli - the capital of Libya.
The operation began at 5.16am yesterday and all the migrants were on board within 45 minutes.
An hour later the vessel was then re-tasked to assist with the rescue of 362 migrants on a barge.
All the migrants were on board the vessel by 10.16am.
In the third mission, a further 53 people were taken off a small fibreglass boat at 11am.
Of the 519 migrants on board the vessel last night, 401 were men, with 98 females and 20 minors. The rescues bring to over 2,000 the number of migrants rescued now by Irish Defence Forces.
The LE Eithne will remain in the Mediterranean for up to six months, subject to operational demands.