Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Seán Crowe TD, has called on the Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, to ensure that another Irish naval vessel is sent to the Mediterranean to participate in search and rescue missions.

Speaking after he raised the issue in a Parliamentary Question to Minister Coveney, Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Three Irish Naval Service ships, the LÉ Eithne, the LÉ Niamh and the LÉ Samuel Beckett, rescued 8,631 refugees from the Mediterranean last year.

“The commitment of the men and women who served on those ships in this difficult and lifesaving task makes them a credit to their country.

“According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 45,361 migrants and refugees have arrived in Greece by sea this month alone. This is roughly 31 times as many as the 1,472 recorded by the Greek Coast Guard for the whole of January 2015.

“The EU needs to show greater solidarity with Greece and Italy, as they are completely overwhelmed.

“Ireland can also show solidarity by supporting these lifesaving naval rescue missions and in relocating refugees who are fleeing war zones.

“I welcome that the Minister confirmed today that it’s his intention to send another naval vessel, but it needs to happen as soon as possible.

“Only 322 refugees based in Greece and Italy have been resettled, despite an EU commitment to resettle 160,000, and the Irish Government has so far only agreed to resettle 20 refugees under this programme.

“I am reiterating my calls for Ireland to show leadership and solidarity on this issue. We need to fix the current system and work to save lives and protect those fleeing war zones.”