An Irish naval ship rescued 712 people including pregnant women and infants off the coast of the Libyan capital of Tripoli as part of an international migrant rescue effort, Ireland’s Defence Forces said on Monday.
The LÉ Eithne ship led the rescue of multiple vessels in distress 40 kilometres north-west of Tripoli throughout Sunday. Six migrants, including one baby, were revived from states of unconsciousness.
The ship will transport the people, including 14 pregnant women and four infants below the age of four months, to a designated “port of safety” to be handed over to Italian authorities.
“I’m very proud to say all lives were saved, no lives were lost. It was a complex operation where lives were at stake at every turn over a full eight-hour period,” Commander Brian Fitzgerald told national broadcaster RTE from the ship.
“Overall, they were really in a wretched condition but in all cases healthy enough to undertake the journey to a port of safety.”
Two people were found dead as more than 200 migrants adrift in two dinghies off the Libyan coast were rescued by the Spanish navy on Sunday, the Spanish Defence Ministry said on Monday.
In total, 229 people were picked up after a Spanish navy ship was dispatched to help the boats struggling to stay afloat.
After the rescue mission was completed the migrants were transferred to a Swedish ship, which is also part of a wider European response to tackle human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Mediterranean Sea, and taken to Italy.
Half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy over the past four years, mainly sub-Saharan Africans who pay smugglers to shepherd them across the desert to Libya, and onward to Europe in unseaworthy dinghies.
An estimated 13,000 of them have drowned.