Over the last two months, as many as 39,000 Africans have been smuggled from Libya into Italy by NGO’s – with the permission of the Italian government – under the pretence of “rescue missions”.
Images from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees official website shows ships leaving Italian ports, heading south towards Africa, stopping at the Libyan coast, picking up refugees and taking them 260 miles back to Italy.
Last week, the Italian Ministry recorded a new record of migrant arrivals, as 171,000 “leaky boats and inflatable dinghies” arrived at the Italian coast this year.
Elizabeth Collett, the director of Migration Policy Institute Europe, said: “Smugglers no longer need large and robust boats. They need small boats that can make it a short distance and then have search-and-rescue pick them up.
“How do you break that cycle? You can’t stop search-and-rescue.”
European legislation currently permits human traffickers to escape prosecution.
In a particular section of law titled “On Search and Rescue” it states: “Private ship masters and non-governmental organisations who assist in sea rescues in the Mediterranean Sea should not risk punishment for providing such assistance.”
Local reports in Italy suggest coast guards are behind the illegal smugglings. He responds to calls from the traffickers who tell him exactly when to expect his “human cargo”.