The Italian prosecution is investigating members of humanitarian organizations – NGOs – rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea on suspicion they may have cooperated with people smugglers. The ‘taxi-service’ is what the NGOs activities in Mediterranean sea are called among concerned European tax-payers watching flows of illegal migrants streaming daily to Europe.
Ambrogio Cartosio, chief prosecutor of the western Sicilian city of Trapani, told a parliamentary committee in Rome that the organizations themselves were not a target of the inquiry.
Suspicions arose because some rescue crew seemed to know in advance where to find the flimsy boats crowded with migrants after smugglers sent them off from north African ports, he said.
Migrant arrivals to Italy by sea are up almost 40 percent this year over the same period in 2016, and more than a half-million people have come in the past three years. Some Italian politicians also have begun saying the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) run a “taxi” service bringing migrants to Italy.
“We understand that NGOs made some rescues at sea without informing the Coast Guard,” Cartosio said. Italy’s Coast Guard is in charge of coordinating all rescues in international waters off the shores of Libya.
The prosecutor gave no further details. By law, information regarding ongoing probes must be kept secret. Aid groups have strongly denied any ties to human traffickers.