Tag Archives: Mediterranean

This morning.

In the Dáil.

Several TDs, including Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Independents 4 Change TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, raised the Irish Navy’s current involvement in the European Union’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean where asylum seekers attempting to leave Libya are being brought back to Libya.

Irish freelance journalist Sally Hayden, who last week won the Foreign Coverage award at the Irish Journalism awards for her Irish Times reports on migration matters, has been reporting extensively in recent months on asylum seekers who have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguard and brought back to Libya where they’ve been detained.

Last month, Ms Hayden reported:

“Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been returned to Libya since February 2017, when the country’s UN-backed government entered into a deal with Italy to prevent migration to Europe. Italian politicians have called the deal a success, because it has reduced the number of people arriving on their shores.

“However, for the men, women and children returned to Libya, the situation is bleak. More than a dozen detainees across Tripoli contacted by phone have described detention centres rife with abuse, where they’re fed once a day at most, forced to work, and sometimes beaten or raped. Overcrowding has led to the spread of infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

Further to this.

The Junior Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe told the Dáil this morning that Operation Sophia has  helped to “improve overall maritime security”.

He said the latest UN figures show that, as of November 14, 2018, the number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea was 103,347 – compared to 156,708 in 2017, and 343,258 in 2016.

He said Ireland’s involvement in Operation Sophia in 2019 is currently being considered and a decision will be made on that following a full review of its 2018 deployments.

He also said: “We have interrupted the smugglers in the model that they are using. We’ve destroyed their boats and they use to smuggle migrants through.”

And he explained: “When we joined Operation Sophia, Operation Pontus [its predecessor] was a humanitarian search and rescue mission undertaken by Ireland’s bilateral agreement with the Italian authorities and the sole focus of that mission was the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean. Now we’ve joined Operation Sophia, it specifically seeks to counter traffic and smuggling in the south Mediterranean, central Mediterranean sea, by taking action against criminal networks.”

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly put it to Mr Kehoe that Operation Sophia is not about saving or rescuing people from the Mediterranean but, instead it’s “part of your current drip, drip participation into involvement in a PESCO and a future European army”.

Mr Kehoe said: “Deputy, absolutely, of course, I agree with you 100%. Of course, it’s a military mission. But also it’s a UN-mandated mission.”

He added:

“When we joined PESCO, and brought it to the Cabinet, brought it to the House here, it was voted democratically by the members of this House, to join Operation Sophia and it totally changed the mission that we were participating in under Operation Pontus.

“Operation Sophia specifically seeks to counter human trafficking and smuggling in the south, central Mediterranean, by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting smugglers’ business model by improving maritime security.

“Operation Sophia is actively  contributing to the EU and international efforts to, of the return of  stability in Libya. In addition, Operation Sophia plays an important role in the training of the Libyan coastguard. We weren’t doing any of that under Operation Pontus.”

Mr Ó Snodaigh put it to Mr Kehoe that it was his understanding that the Irish Navy isn’t in Libyan ports.

Therefore, he asked Mr Kehoe to confirm if the Irish Navy has been “destroying” smugglers’ boats at sea.

He also asked Mr Kehoe to confirm how many boats the Irish Navy has escorted back to Libya.

Mr Kehoe said he would come back to Mr Ó Snodaigh with a figure.

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace said:

“Operation Sophia is pulling people back to a place of violence and human rights violations. Only yesterday, authorities used rubber bullets and tear gas to force over 90 refugees to disembark a cargo ship docked at Misrata.

“The stand-off lasted 10 days. The refugees, including children, said they’d rather die than return to indefinite detention in Libya. This is the reality of Libya and Operation Sophia.

Now scores of refugees are killing themselves in detention centres where the Irish Navy are helping the Libyan coastguard to keep these desperate people. You said Minister, that you’re saving lives by interrupting smugglers, you’re sending them back to violence.

“They’d rather be killed then go back. You talk about a UN mandate, let’s not forget. The UN gave the mandate to destroy this place in the first place. That’s what they did. There’s no sense in what’s going on there, Minister.”

“We should have nothing to do with this military mission. We’re actually crucifying people by sending them back to Libya which this government, your government, actually, agrees with the NATO mission there. And sadly back by UN mandate.”

Mr Kehoe responded:

“Our mission statement totally changed when we joined Operation Sophia but I wasn’t hiding behind anything.”

Related: Libya is a war zone. Why is the EU still sending refugees back there? (Sally Hayden, The Guardian)


Paul Kehoe speaking in the Dáil in January 2018.


Migrant rescue ship Aquarius

AFP reports:

European countries faced pressure on Tuesday to resolve a fresh standoff with the operators of the migrant rescue ship Aquarius which is stranded for the second time in the Mediterranean carrying 141 people.

France said it was in touch with the other EU nations to “rapidly” find a port where the Aquarius could dock after it was refused entry by Italy and Malta, the two countries closest to its current location.

The Aquarius, which was left stranded with 630 migrants on board in June after being turned away by Rome and Valletta, resumed rescue operations off the Libyan coast last week.

France again voiced disapproval of Italy’s “very tough political stance” — milder language than two months ago when President Emmanuel Macron accused his Italian partners of “cynicism and irresponsibility”.

The 141 migrants on board the Aquarius were picked up on Friday in two separate operations and are in a stable condition, the French charity that operates the Aquarius, SOS Mediterranee, said.

EU faces fresh standoff over Aquarius migrant boat (Yahoo)

Pic: GavinLeeBBC


Via IOM UN Migration


Oscar Camps, of Spanish lifeguard group Proactiva Open Arms, tweeted:

The Libyan coast guard announced that it had intercepted a boat with 158 people on board and had provided medical and humanitarian assistance. What they did not say was that they left two women and a child on board and sank the ship because they did not want to get on Libyan patrol boats.

When we arrived, we found one of the women still alive, we could not do anything to recover the other woman and the child who apparently died a few hours before finding them. How long will we have to deal with assassins enlisted by the Italian government to kill?

Libyan coastguard accused of abandoning three migrants in sea (The Guardian)

Spanish group Proactiva Open Arms carry out a rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean; UN statistics showing number of people who have reached Europe by land and sea; by sea alone; and the known number of people who’ve died so far this year (1,408) 

The number of known people seeking refuge to have gone missing or died while trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year is now 1,408, according to the United Nations.

Further to this…

Last year…

Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, of Medecines sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), told a meeting of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs committee:

“We, as Europe, train the Libyan coastguard, we equip the Libyan coastguard, we help them set up a search and rescue region. We get them to do our dirty work so we can claim it’s not us. However, our fingerprints everywhere.”

The Government has since said the Irish Naval Service does not return migrants it rescues from the Mediterranean to Libya as part of the EU’s naval operation Operation Sophia.

Further to this…


United Nations – Mediterranean

Pic: Proactiva Open Arms

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.01.07

LÉ Eithne

Sorcha Pollak, in the Irish Times, reports:

“The Irish naval vessel LÉ Eithne is to be dispatched to the Mediterranean sea to participate in an EU search and rescue mission for migrants fleeing north Africa, the Minister for Defence has said. Simon Coveney told RTE radio [this] morning the navy was preparing the LÉ Eithne so it would be ready to leave for the Mediterranean by Friday, May 8th.”

“He said the vessel was being prepared in Haulbowline naval base in Cork harbour so that it could “successfully save people and drop them to local ports in the vicinity of the Mediterranean”.”

“Asked whether there was any plan in place to bring migrants back to the Republic of Ireland, Mr Coveney said it wouldn’t be practical to be picking people up from the sea and bringing them back to the State.”

LÉ Eithne to participate in migrant search and rescue (Sorcha Pollak, Irish Times)

LÉ Eithne will be ready to travel to Mediterranean on Friday (Morning Ireland, RTÉ)

Mediterranean migrants crisis: ‘Dozens drowned’ in new tragedy off Libya (International Business Times)

Photocall Ireland