Italian prosecutor says charities ‘colluding’ with migrant smugglers

24 April 2017
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Some of the charities saving migrants in the Mediterranean Sea are colluding with people-smugglers, according to Italian prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro. He told La Stampa that phone calls were being made from Libya to rescue vessels and rescuers were shining lamps to direct smugglers’ vessels and turning off transponders so boats could not be traced.

As reported by the BBC, organisations involved in rescue operations have rejected accusations of collusion, saying their only concern is to save lives.

Italy is the main route for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. The United Nations refugee agency estimates that almost 1,000 people are thought to have drowned in waters between Libya and Italy this year.

Nearly 37,000 people have been rescued over the same period, a surge of more than 40% from last year, according to UN data.
“We have evidence that there are direct contacts between certain NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and people traffickers in Libya,” Zuccaro is quoted as saying in La Stampa.

In response, Chris Catrambone, who co-founded the Migrant Offshore Aid Station NGO to rescue migrants, told the Reuters news agency that “more would die if we weren’t there”.

In a separate report, The Telegraph noted that Zuccaro’s comments came two days after Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement said NGOs were providing a “taxi service” for migrants, adopting a tough anti-immigrant line similar to far-right Northern League and right-wing Forza Italia.

During a visit to Canada on April 21, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni cautioned against criminalising NGOs, saying they “save lives and should be thanked”.

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