Exactly one month after one a Belgian Navy frigate deployed in the frame of the Mediterranean operation Sophia, the EU naval operation to save migrants and disrupt human-trafficking networks, its government might pull it back.
The frigate Louise-Marie is operating in international waters between Sicily and Libya.
Belgian migration minister Theo Francken called for the frigate’s anti-arms and people-smuggling operation to be abandoned. Belgium currently has the frigate BNS Louise Marie deployed between Sicily and Libya.
Francken told Flemish-language told broadcaster VTM that the whole EU Sophia mission is “lunacy” and brings “shame” on Europe.
“It is not about whether we should save them [migrants] or not. We should. But this creates an effect of drawing in migrants with more dead people as a result. It is a shame on Europe”.
His remarks come days after a British parliamentary committee branded Sophia a failure which should be stopped.
While Francken, from the Flemish nationalist party N-VA (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie), made clear that he was speaking for himself, the Belgian defence ministry has already indicated that it may pull out of Sophia, if Libya does not permit EU vessels to interdict smugglers inside its territorial waters, which is the next planned phase of the EU operation.