Asylum state secretary visits Italy to discuss refugee crisis


Theo Francken, in charge of Belgium’s immigration policies, watched hundreds of refugees arrive in boats on the coast of Italy this week when he was in the country for talks on the migration situation

“Three boats in just a few hours”

Theo Francken, federal state secretary for asylum policy, travelled to Rome this week for talks with his Italian counterpart, Domenico Manzione, on efforts to deal with thousands of African migrants arriving in Italy.

Francken promised that Belgium would help Italy to process the migrants but warned that “some of them would have to go back to where they came from”.

The state secretary also flew to the Italian island of Lampedusa to watch as migrants were brought ashore. “It’s impressive to see what’s happening here,” he told the press. “I’ve seen three boats arrive in just a few hours. One boat was carrying Somali refugees. Another was carrying Nigerians who had spent three days at sea. It’s crazy to think that 160,000 migrants landed on this small island last year. There are currently 1,100 people staying in a reception centre with just 350 beds.”

During his visit, Francken spoke with a refugee from Ghana. “He told me that his brother had been thrown overboard, along with other people, because they were Christians.”

Francken said that there was a clear obligation to help refugees from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. But he said that it was impossible to take people who came from regions where there was no war and who were coming to Europe as economic refugees. “You can’t have a migration policy if you don’t discuss this question,” he said.

Photo: Theo Francken on the Italian island of Lampedusa, waiting for the refugees to arrive
©Joost De Bock/ImageDesk