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Dublin: 2 °C Monday 16 December, 2019

We gave them a ship ... but some people in Malta aren't AT ALL happy about it

Ireland donated the former LÉ Aoife to help tackle the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. But the gesture’s getting a mixed response from the Maltese.

AS YOU’LL NO DOUBT have read on popular news website, the Irish Government is giving the former naval vessel the LÉ Aoife to Malta to help deal with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.

The vessel was decommissioned from the Naval Service in Waterford in at the end of last month, after 36 years in service.

We’d initially planned to sell it – but Defence Minister Simon Coveney confirmed yesterday that he had agreed to donate the ship “to address a pressing short-term shortfall in the naval capacity of Malta”.

The reaction to the news in our own comments section was generally positive. A sample response from ‘Al Ca’:

“I kinda like the idea that the LÉ AOIFE will still be patrolling somewhere especially where it will help to save lives instead of ending up scrapped.

“Malta is a very small country with it’s own debt problem that has to deal with an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the borders of Europe.

“Financially it’s a small contribution that will reap benefits in saving lives.”

The reaction on the website of English-language newspaper The Times of Malta was a little more mixed, however.

While the ongoing refugee crisis in Mediterranean makes the news here whenever there’s a major tragedy – obviously, it’s an issue the Maltese pay a lot more attention to…

A ‘V Buhagiar’ made the following comment yesterday:

That’s easy the donate an obsolete ship to show solidarity. At the end we (Maltese Tax payers) have to pay for its upkeep and running (no joke for a 35 year old ship). What we need most is the relocation of immigrants, not ships.

This came from an ‘S Caruana’:

We neither need vessels and nor money we just need push back that was what we were promised.

From ‘John Camilleri’:

Thank you for giving us a 36 year old ship.. but what Malta was hoping for is Burden Sharing!!

times Source: Times of Malta

Other responses have been a bit more detailed – and have given a little more of an insight into how the issue is viewed in Malta, and elsewhere in the region. From Kurt Waschnig:

Excellent done by the Republic of Ireland to give an offshore patrol vessel to Malta to help it cope with the migration crisis. That will help to rescue more migrants. But more European countries should do the same and give Malta patrol vessels. More and more migrants will try to cross the Mediterranean therefore Malta needs more patrol vessels.

Meanwhile, in his official response, Malta’s Home Affairs and National Security Minister Carmelo Abela said the country appreciated the Irish donation, and said it would be useful in supporting Malta’s border security work and efforts to tackle the migration crisis.

A statement agreed with Ireland’s Defence officials said:

Malta routinely coordinates the rescue and takes in scores of refugees from the Middle East, N.Africa and the Sahel, often in treacherous sea conditions. This donation from the Irish Defence forces will contribute additional capability to the Maltese authorities, and especially the Armed Forces of Malta in their humanitarian work.

The UNHCR says that almost 3,500 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe last year. In the latest tragedy – last week – at least 300 migrants are feared to have drowned – trying to cross from north Africa.

Read: Fleet-wide check under way after asbestos found on Naval ships

Read: Asbestos found on LÉ Aoife this week should have been removed a decade ago

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