Italian Prosecutor Probes NGOs for Refugee Smuggling

Rescue vessels suspected of coordinating with traffickers in the Mediterranean

An Italian prosecutor is investigation left-wing NGOs for possible involvement in illicit human smuggling.

Catania, Sicilly prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro believes NGO-funded migrant rescue boats are coordinating with people smugglers who have taken advantage of an increased flow of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

“It is impossible to rule out direct contact.”

The Mediterranean is the preferred route for many of the migrants pouring into Europe from North Africa and the Middle East. Migrants are crammed onto rickety boats well past any reasonable capacity by unscrupulous human traffickers, and the results are often fatal.

In September 2016, the U.N. reported that in the first eight months of 2016, one out of every 42 migrants perished on the journey — a rate of 11 per day. In light of the obvious human tragedy, NGOs like SOS Mediterranee, named by Zuccaro in his probe, were created to rescue migrants if and when their vessels failed.

But Zuccaro believes the smugglers could be coordinating directly with the NGOs, setting migrants adrift and then calling notifying the NGOs’ vessels, which then pick up the migrants and taxi them back to Europe.

“It is impossible to rule out direct contact” between the NGO boats and Libyan traffickers, Zuccaro told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday. “I am convinced that it is not always the operational center that calls on the NGOs,” he said, referring to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome, which coordinates all rescue operations in the area.

If true, it means NGOs are not only engaging in emergency rescue operations, but also coordinating and facilitating mass human smuggling into Europe.

A number of the NGOs which operate migrant rescue vessels have ties to left-wing activist billionaire George Soros. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) operates a number of ships and has received funding from Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF).

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), another NGO which ostensibly operates rescue operations in the Mediterranean, received funding from Avaaz, a progressive NGO founded by ResPublica and MoveOn.org, both organizations funded heavily by Soros.

Zuccaro isn’t the only one to suspect NGOs’ involvement in human trafficking — indications of such collusion have long existed. A November 2016 report by E.U. border agency Frontex stated that migrants received “clear indications before departure on the precise direction to be followed in order to reach the NGOs’ boats.”

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A Frontex report the following month revealed a “reported case where the criminal networks were smuggling migrants directly on an NGO vessel.” The same report also suggested the NGO rescue vessels were operating “like taxis” for the people smugglers.

This year has seen a surge in Mediterranean crossings. Over 6,000 migrants were rescued in the past week alone.