A rescue operation by NGO Proactiva Open Arms | PHOTO: EPA/Proactiva Open Arms
A rescue operation by NGO Proactiva Open Arms | PHOTO: EPA/Proactiva Open Arms

The EU border agency Frontex has denied having documented any "collusion" between NGOs and human traffickers. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had claimed earlier in the week that Frontex knew of NGOs aiding smugglers.

Following the G7 interior ministers' meeting in Paris on April 5, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had made a surprise statement that caused a stir in France: the minister claimed that some NGOs could have been "accomplices" to human traffickers.

Castaner, who is known to be loyal to French President Emmanuel Macron, aligned himself with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini with this allegation, and added that Frontex had documented NGOs assisting traffickers.

In response to those allegations, Franceinfo radio network contacted Frontex for comment on Castaner's claims, which confirmed that traffickers had made a number of phone calls on satellite phones contacting the Italian Coast Guard but never NGOs. Frontex added that in those cases, the traffickers had ordered the migrants themselves to make those calls for help.

Newspaper reports cited as source

Frontex added that Castaner must have been referring to information from a 2016 article in the Financial Times (FT). The London-based newspaper said in that article that it had seen a "series of confidential reports" by Frontex that showed charities "in some cases even colluding with people smugglers."

However, Frontex said it had already denied the existence of such reports, and in December 2016, FT published a correction to its original article.

Le Pen calls for inquiry

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen's right-wing Rassemblement National (RN) party echoed similar claims as those made by French Interior Minister Castaner, accusing NGOs of being "accomplices of the traffickers" once more.

The party called for a parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate the issue. RN MP Sébastien Chenu said Castaner's recent statements had confirmed what his party had been saying all along.

Meanwhile one of the leading NGOs on the Mediterranean, SOS Méditerranée, strongly refuted the accusations, vowing to sue for defamation anyone who "criminalizes" sea rescue operations.


 

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