Irish Naval Service to join Operation Sophia in Mediterranean

The Irish Naval Service is set to join a wider EU operation tackling the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Irish naval service operation sophia Mediterranean

LÉ Eithne rescues vulnerable people on a mission in 2015 (Credit Irish Naval Service)

The current Irish naval missions in the Mediterranean are part of Operation Pontus in an arrangement with the Italian government. The Irish Naval service has deployed several ships to the area since it first joined the relief effort in 2015.

This operation runs in parallel to the separate EU Operation Sophia 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.

A “triple lock” system is in place to govern the deployment of Defence personnel overseas and this is expected to be used to ratify the move this week. The Cabinet approved the proposal yesterday and the motion is to be put forward to the Dáil this morning. If approved, it would be the Irish Naval Service’s first multinational mission of this kind.

Government sources say that if Ireland was to join Operation Sophia that it would enhance our contribution to the EU’s response to the migrant crisis countering illegal people trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable people. It would also provide Ireland with access to a wider intelligence and information and build on the naval services skills and capacities.

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Ann Robinson
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