CHRISTMAS came early at the naval base in Haulbowline yesterday when families were reunited with the crew of the LE Samuel Beckett.
The crew returned home after a three-month stint in the Mediterranean, rescuing migrants attempting to cross the ocean to get to Europe.
Their stint featured in a documentary called The Crossing, featured on RTÉ last Monday night.
LE Samuel Beckett return at the Naval Base, Haulbowline, Cork. Video by David Keane. Evening Echo
During the deployment, they rescued more than 770 migrants from one barge. They were among more than 3,000 people they rescued. They also recovered 11 bodies.
It was the second time in the Mediterranean in the past 18 months for the LE Samuel Beckett.
In that period, four other Irish naval vessels have also been deployed.
Family, friends and naval colleagues turned out to welcome the crew of the LE Samuel Beckett yesterday.
Defence Minister Paul Kehoe had been due in Cork to present the 1916 Centenary Commemorative medal to serving members of the Defence Forces at the Naval Base, but was unable to attend due to Dáil commitments yesterday.
The medal is being presented to members of the Defence Forces around the country to mark the contribution of the army and navy to the national commemoration of the 1916 rising.
A spokesman for the Navy said: “The role of the Irish Naval vessel is to provide a search and rescue capability and to undertake humanitarian rescue operations at sea in the Mediterranean.
“Assistance to persons in distress at sea is provided in accordance with the applicable provisions of international conventions governing search and rescue situations.”
The Naval Service has been assisting Italian Authorities with search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea since last May.
More than 3,740 migrants have drowned on their way to Europe so far this year, nearly matching the figure recorded for all of 2015, according to the UN refugee agency.
Despite dreams of a better life in Europe, less than 20% of migrants who make it into Italy are not granted asylum.
Some 170,000 made the crossing this year and another 250,000 are hoping to follow in the near future.