Belgian Marine Frigate Louise-Marie’s mission to the Mediterranean should be cancelled, or it could be lead to an increase in the flow of “illegal immigrants”, the State Secretary for Asylum and Immigration Theo Francken (New Flemish Alliance) said on Sunday.
“It would be better if we did nothing. It is causing an increase in the flow of illegal immigrants”, Mr Francken said when appearing on VTM Nieuws.
The Louise-Marie has been involved in the European operation Sophia, which combats human and weapons trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea, since the 18th of June. It rescued 118 immigrants from the Libyan coast at the end of June.
The frigate “is doing a good job, but it would be better to stop”, thinks Theo Francken. “We have to remember that people in danger have to be saved. But they must not be bought to Europe. That is creating an increase in the flow of immigrants which does nothing but cause more deaths. It’s a stain on Europe’s reputation”.
The State Secretary also criticised Italy. He called for agreements between Italy and Libya and Italy and Tunisia on getting boats of immigrants sent there.
The main objective of operation Sophia is to fight human trafficking and intercept weapons smugglers. Belgian has signed a new agreement with Italy on this issue. Arms smugglers will be handed over to Italian authorities. If the frigate finds immigrants the crew will help them, the Defence department explained when the Louise-Marie was dispatched.
This is the Louise-Marie’s second Sophia mission, as she was sent on a thirty day mission in November and December.
Belgium has already contributed to international aid operations in the Mediterranean with its other frigate, the F930 Léopold 1er, and logistical support vessel Godetia.
Italian authorities have called on the European Union to help them care for immigrants arriving from Africa. They even threatened closing their doors to rescue ships to put pressure on their European partners.