The Catania public prosecutor's office investigates the links between traffickers and NGOs

(B2) According to the Italian daily The print which reports information from the Italian Ministry of the Interior, there are links between the networks of traffickers operating in Libya and certain NGOs.

Evidence of NGO-trafficker contacts

« We have evidence that among some NGOs and human traffickers who are in Libya there are direct contacts – emphasizes the public prosecutor of Catania, Carmelo Zuccaro (1). There are phone calls from Libya to certain NGOs, which guide the route of the ships of these organizations, with ships suddenly dropping their transponders. These are established facts. »

Some NGOs at the limit

The public prosecutor of Catania accuses the NGOs of being at the limit of their work. " We are not at all sure that some NGOs are doing a very healthy job. When, at the start of Operation Sophia, where even the military ships were close to Libyan waters, we asked them to come back, they did. NGOs, on the contrary, are still there ". All NGOs are not to be put in the same bag. "There are good ones and bad ones", according to the prosecutor of Catania. Some such as MSF or S would not be in question, to listen to the Italian magistrate. " There is little to say ". But others — like the Maltese MOAS, the German NGO Sea Watch or the Spanish Proactive Open Arms – seem more in the line of sight of the parquet floor of Catania.

The new tactic of traffickers

« We have photographic documentation of the latest technique used by traffickers “indicates one of the investigators to the Italian daily. " Migrants are crammed into rubber boats that can float just a few [nautical] miles or into small boats. And they escort them with motorboats until they see a boat or an NGO official. After that, they make the reverse journey, back to Libya.

Migrants hold the helm

« On the rafts, the helm is entrusted to one or two migrants. Sometimes they are obliged, often they offer themselves to the traffickers to pay for their trip. “There are regulars. Traditionally it is the Nigerians who hold the helm, “ brave and daring. But, lately, we even see migrants from Bangladesh, who are gentle and never open their mouths, ready to become smugglers ».

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Among the various public prosecutor's offices in Italy dealing with cases of shipwrecks and migrant smuggling (Palermo, Cagliari and Reggio Calabria), that of Catania has the broadest and oldest experience. It has been seized since the October 2013 sinking off Lampedusa, killing more than 350 people. Also covering eastern Sicily, with the ports of Pozzallo, Augusta, Catania and Messina, where most migrants land, it is he who is most often seized of these facts.

A recurring accusation

This is not the first time that NGOs have been accused of colluding or favoring traffickers. In the half-yearly report of EUNAVFOR Med transmitted to Brussels, the commander of the operation had indicated his doubts about certain NGOs (read: The presence of NGOs off Libya: a boon effect for traffickers?). Doubts shared by the Frontex agency but thwarted by NGOs (read: MSF responds to Frontex accusations).

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).