The Irish Naval vessel LÉ Niamh returns home from the Mediterranean this morning just in time for Christmas. The ship departed in October to join the EU Operation Sophia, a first for the Irish Naval Service.
In previous missions the Naval Service has been active under Operation Pontus which primarily focused on rescuing migrants from unseaworthy vessels. Since first beginning operations in 2015 the Naval Service has rescued over 16,000 people.
Operation Sophia is a much more proactive approach to aid in the ongoing crisis which involves France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. Operation Sophia is mandated by the UN and includes more proactive efforts to stop people smugglers before migrants are put out to sea on dangerous boats.
Throughout the operation Irish Naval Service members were involved in intelligence gathering, stopping oil smuggling as well as rescuing vulnerable migrants from perilous boats.
En route to the mission they ferried a special passengers, a rescued loggerhead turtle called Sally back home to the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
The LÉ Niamh arrives into Cork this morning with crew wearing Santa hats eager to be reunited with friends and family after what no doubt a difficult few months.