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Displaying items by tag: Migrant Crisis

Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh has defended her decision to vote against a resolution in the European Parliament to enhance rescue missions for migrants in the Mediterranean.

The vote in Strasbourg yesterday (Thursday 24 October) lost by two. Every Fine Gael MEP — Walsh, Frances Fitzgerald, Sean Kelly and Mairéad McGuinness — voted against the resolution.

There were also four votes not recorded, from independent Clare Daly, Billy Kelleher (Fianna Fáil), Dianne Dodds (DUP) and Naomi Long (Alliance).

The Fine Gael MEPs have been criticised for their stance against the resolution that called on member states to “step up their efforts” and “enhance proactive search and rescue operations” in the Mediterranean, a signifiant and perilous crossing point for people from Africa and Asia seeking asylum in Europe.

The vote result was applauded in the chamber among the far-right block of European parliamentarians, a response condemned among others by Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan who voted for the resolution.

Speaking on behalf of her fellow party MEPs, Walsh said their decision was based on issues with ‘sharing intelligence’.

“We want to save lives and fight human traffickers and to do that, we need a coherent, comprehensive and long-term EU response to search and rescue in the Mediterranean,” she said after the vote.

“In the short-term, the EU and member states must allocate more resources to Search and Rescue and increase missions to save more lives. We also need to urgently step up the fight against the organised criminals and human traffickers who profit on the vulnerable.

“The resolution rejected by the European Parliament today does the opposite by calling for Frontex, the European border and coastguard agency, to share intelligence about its operational activities with every boat in the Mediterranean.

“That would endanger more lives by facilitating, instead of dismantling, the business models of smugglers and human traffickers. We could not support that.”

Walsh, who sits on the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, said “we can do so much better” than the failed resolution “which plays into hands of people smugglers and lacks workable solutions”.

Update Friday 25 October: this article has been corrected to note that the absent votes of four Irish MEPs were not recorded.

Published in News Update

A German ship with 62 migrants which had been blocked for ten days from landing in Mediterranean ports has been allowed to berth in Malta writes Lorna Siggins.

As Afloat reported previously, The Alan Kurdi - named after three-year-old Syrian Kurdish refuge Alan Kurdi who was washed ashore on a Turkish beach in September 2015 - had appealed for assistance after Italy and Malta had initially refused it entry.

The ship run by a German charity Sea-Eye is the last remaining migrant rescue vessel deployed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the Mediterranean.

The Alan Kurdi (italics) had reported that it was short of food, water, medicine and other supplies. Two women on board had already been evacuated to Malta for urgent medical reasons.

Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini said Germany should take the migrants as they had been rescued on April 3rd off Libya by a German NGO.

The impasse was broken after Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a rescue NGO founded by a Malta-based couple with Irish links, intervened to assist the stranded German ship.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner also said on Friday that EU partners would “show solidarity” towards those on board, including 12 women and two young children.

The Alan Kurdi docked in the Maltese harbour of Valletta at the weekend, and Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat said that Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg had agreed to take the migrants.

He said that none of the migrants would remain in Malta, which “cannot shoulder this burden alone”.

Sea Eye criticised the time it had taken to allow the ship to berth and said a compromise must be found.

MOAS was founded in 2014 by millionaire Christopher Catambrone, an American of Irish and Italian descent, and his Italian wife, Regina.

Explaining its decision to intervene last week, MOAS noted that recent escalating violence in Libya only “enhances the need for the creation of safe and legal routes for vulnerable people in desperate need of protection”.

Ireland was recently informed that its involvement in the current EU migrant response operation will change, with the downgrading of Operation Sophia.

The Naval Service ship LE Eithne will not be deployed to the Mediterranean as had been anticipated later this month.

Ireland initially became involved in migrant rescue in 2015 in a bilateral agreement with Italy, and switched to the EU operation, focused more on surveillance and interdiction of people smugglers off Libya, in July 2017.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

#MigrantCrisis - BBC News reports a rescue vessel carrying 629 migrants is stranded in the Mediterranean after Italy's new interior minister refused permission for it to dock.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League, said Malta should accept the Aquarius but he was rejected.

Malta says the German charity SOS Méditerranée picked up the migrants in Libyan waters, which means they fall under Italy's jurisdiction.

Italy is the main entry for migrants crossing from North Africa to Europe.

The League promised voters during Italy's recent general election that it would take a tough stance on immigration.

  • Reality Check: Claims about migrants arriving in Italy
  • Desperate migrants rescued from the sea
  • UN sanctions for people traffickers in Libya

SOS Méditerranée, which runs the Aquarius, said the ship had been instructed by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to stand by in its current position, 35 nautical miles from Italy and 27 nautical miles from Malta.

For more on this story click here. 

Currently operating in the Mediterranean as previously reported on Afloat is the Irish Naval Service OPV90 class L.É. Samuel Beckett. The crew recently received in Malta medals in recognition of their Operation Sophia work since deployment in April.  

Published in News Update

#Navy - Leadship of the Irish Naval Service OPV90 class, LÉ Samuel Beckett is departing today for the Mediterranean to take part in 'Operation Sophia'.

As The Irish Examiner reports, Ireland first joined the EU naval operation against smugglers and traffickers last October when another Offshore Patrol Vessel, the OPV80 class LÉ Niamh was deployed for a three-month mission.

Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe says the crew will be helping to address some of the root causes of migration and human trafficking.

For more click this link. 

Published in Navy

#MedRescue - Irish Naval Service personnel came to the rescue of around 380 migrants across three operations in the Mediterranean on Friday (18 September), as the Irish Examiner reports.

The responses off the Libyan coast – which included the rescue of 124 and 127 people respectively from inflatable craft, and saving 129 from a sinking dinghy – bring the LÉ Niamh's total rescued to 3,723.

That tops the number saved by sister ship the LÉ Eithne, which returned from its nine-week deployment in July.

Published in Navy

The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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