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NGOs accused of colluding with Libya human traffickers

NGOs have allegedly coordinated with traffickers to arrange pickup points [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2017

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Italian prosecutor makes extraordinary claim, accusing aid groups in Libya of working with brutal human traffickers that operate in the war-torn country.

An Italian prosecutor prosecutor in Sicily has claimed that NGO migrant rescue boats are colluding with human traffickers in Libya.

"We have evidence that there are direct contacts between certain NGOs and people traffickers in Libya," Carmelo Zuccaro told Italiy's La Stampa daily.

"We do not yet know if and how we could use this evidence in court, but we are quite certain about what we say; telephone calls from Libya to certain NGOs, lamps that illuminate the route to these organizations' boats, boats that suddenly turn off their transponders, are ascertained facts," he said.

Zuccaro, who is based in Sicily, is part of a team of prosecutors investigating migrant trafficking and exploitation. Last month, the prosecutor made the same claim to Italy's parliament, however said he didn't have proof.

He claims that aid groups are arranging collection points in coordination wiht traffickers, rather than taking directions from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center. 

A similar allegation has long been made by EU border agency Frontex, which says that NGO rescue boats encourage traffickers.

The Financial Times said in December that confidential Frontex documents indicate that migrants had received "clear indications before departure on the precise direction to be followed in order to reach the NGOs' boats".

Zuccaro's allegations have also called into question whether NGOs are taking money from trafficking gangs.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontiers), SOS Mediterranee, Save the Children and Mobile Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) are some of the NGOs who have denied being in collusion with traffickers.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 181,000 migrants arrived in Italy last year. Italy is currently part of an EU-backed scheme to reinforce Libya's coastguard and stop migrant boats from leaving the North African country's shores.

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