The Belgian frigate, Louise-Marie, left the Port of Zeebrugge this morning (Monday) for the Mediterranean Sea, as part of the European Sophia mission. Its objective is to fight against migrant trafficking and intercept arms smugglers in this area. The Ministry of Defence indicated that the 150 crew members are under the command of Captain Guy Schotte, and will return to their home ports on July 28th.
The frigate will, in particular, be deployed in international waters between Sicily and Libya. The Ministry of Defence is stressing, “The main objective of the operation is to fight against migrant trafficking and to intercept arms smugglers. To this end, Belgium has concluded a new agreement with Italy. When the smugglers are intercepted, they will be handed over to the Italian authorities. Moreover if the frigate discovers any migrants, the team will assist them.”
This is the second Sophia mission conducted by the Louise-Marie. During a 30-day period (over November and December 2016), 68 ships were inspected and 172 migrants in difficulty were rescued. Belgium has already sent the frigate Léopold I and the logistical support ship Godetia to contribute to international sea-rescue operations.