A WARSHIP from Portsmouth has rescued more than 100 refugees in its first three days of patrolling the Mediterranean.
HMS Richmond has saved 102 migrants who were being shipped from north Africa to Europe.
The Type 23 frigate is part of a Royal Navy contingent, which also includes the Plymouth-based HMS Enterprise, sent to join an EU task force to counter human traffickers smuggling refugees.
W01 Mark Gandy, Richmond’s executive Warrant Officer, was in charge of embarking migrants.
He said: ‘After 24 years in the submarine service, this is the first time I have seen something like this.
‘Just seeing how people will risk their lives by heading out to sea in vessels such as these reminds us of how lucky we are and why we do what we do.’
Together Enterprise and Richmond have saved 541 lives.
The news comes after Richmond was given fresh powers to board and seize smuggling vessels, as well as detain people suspected of being migrant smugglers or human traffickers.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon said the navy’s work was ‘invaluable’ and insisted the UK was committed to stamping out migrant smuggling operations.
‘Our focus remains on hitting the criminal gangs responsible for endangering the lives of innocent people,’ he said. ‘We are determined to tackle this at source.’
‘The new powers we have to board boats and detain the smugglers will help us put an end to this trade in human misery.’
The rescued migrants are being cared on the ships and will be transferred to Norwegian support vessel Siem Pilote to be taken ashore.
Richmond’s commanding officer, Commander Mark Anderson added he was ‘proud’ to be tackling the migrant crisis by ‘striking at the source’.
Since May, Royal Navy ships have saved almost 7,000 migrants.