The Marine vessel BNS Godetia has returned to Zeebrugge after a two month operation in the Mediterranean, where it was rescuing immigrants from the water. It rescued around 1,617 immigrants, 600 of them women and children. The crew members were greeted by their families, but also by the Defence Minister Steven Vandeput and the State Secretary for Asylum and Immigration Theo Francken. The Godetia left Belgium to head to South Italy on the 13th of May, to take part in the European “Supportive Trident” operation. It looked for African immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean on boats, before pulling them out of the water and handing them over to Italian authorities.
Due to the sensitive nature of the operation, the 90 strong crew was backed up by medical teams and psychological and psychiatric support teams. “To the families, I would say your work is not over. You will have a very important role in helping the crew digest the emotions and images accumulated over the last two months”, Mr Vandeput told them. “We can be proud of this very successful mission”, the Minister continued. “We were able to assist at a time when extra help was desperately needed”.
The crew is now on stand-by. “We are ready if we are asked to help again. This was a humanitarian mission. This next one might not be”, Mr Vandeput said.
The frigate Leopold I is preparing to leave for the Mediterranean soon.
Andy Sanchez (Source: Belga)