Belgium helps out in Lifeline case, "but just this once" Francken warns

Belgium has agreed to give shelter to 15 refugees who are now still on board the humanitarian ship Lifeline in the Mediterranean. The ship has docked in a Maltese port today. Asylum Secretary Theo Francken called this Belgian move "a one-off operation".

The ship has about 230 rescued migrants on board, and has been roaming the waters of the Mediterranean Sea with them for almost a week, after Italy refused to let the ship dock. Malta has now allowed the ship to dock, after European countries promised to share the burden. The Lifeline ship is operated by Germany's chairy Mission Lifeline.  Time was ticking: many people were getting ill due to the rough seas. 

Eight European countries - Malta, Italy, France, Portugal, Ireland, Luxemburg, Belgium and the Netherlands - will offer shelter to the migrants who have the most chance of applying for asylum successfully. "Belgium will take in a maximum of 15 migrants", Asylum Secretary Theo Francken (N-VA) tweeted. 

All parties involved, including Belgium, underlined that the deal was only a one-off decision. "We are a loyal European partner", Francken posted on Twitter "and so we will help. But: this is a one-off ad hoc operation; for a maximum of 15 people; only for refugees with a high asylum eligibility; a judicial procedure against the NGO ship will be started." 

Francken added: "Now we should continue the efforts to organise accommodation in the (people's home, red.) region and in Northern Africa. Stop illegal immigration!"  

imago/epd