MORE than 130 migrants have been rescued by HMS Richmond after they were crammed into an oversized dinghy in the Mediterranean.
For the third time in a fortnight, refugees were picked up by the Portsmouth-based warship and given food and medical assistance by her crew.
The frigate came to the rescue during a day-long operation by European navies, which saw more than 500 people saved from a cluster of overcrowded and inadequate boats trying to cross the central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.
Spanish and Luxembourgian reconnaissance aircraft sighted half a dozen craft – including one fishing boat and a couple of skiffs – boats, prompting an immediate response for forces mustered for the European Union’s Operation Sophia.
The operation’s flagship, carrier ITS Cavour, directed Richmond, the Belgian frigate Leopold I and Slovenian patrol ship Triglav.
The latter picked up 76 people, the Belgians 258, while Richmond cared for 134 people, ferried aboard the British frigate by her sea boats, one of which was being driven by 23-year-old Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineer) Jade Convery.
‘The reason I joined the Royal Navy was to make a difference and help people, this was an experience I will never forget, and has been my proudest day so far,’ she said.
‘I’ve really enjoyed working with the European Union Naval Force – working with other navies has been a huge learning experience, and we already feel part of one team.’
Once aboard HMS Richmond, the migrants were registered, given water and food, and, if required, received assistance from medics before they were transferred to the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti so they could be landed in Sicily.
‘This is my first deployment and it has been a real learning experience for me,’ said ET(WE) Alex Peter, 23, who was helping to register the migrants.
‘When I joined up I never thought I might end up doing something like this – I’m extremely proud to be part of Operation Sophia.’
The latest rescue brings the number of people rescued by Royal Navy ships in the Mediterranean since May – first by HMS Bulwark, then by survey ship HMS Enterprise, and now jointly by Richmond and Enterprise – to nearly 8,000.