There is growing controversy in Italy over claims that some NGOs involved in the rescue of migrants at sea have been colluding with Libyan people smugglers.
Italy’s justice minister slammed the claims as “lies” and the Sicilian prosecutor behind the accusations has been called before the High Council of the Judiciary next week to explain.
Prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro told Italian television: “In my opinion, those NGOs could be financed by the smugglers – some NGOs, we have to make the right distinctions.”
“I know of direct contacts,” he said, without presenting evidence.
“Today this trafficking is worth as much as the drug market. Some NGOs have different aims, including, for example, the destabilisation of the Italian economy.”
Zuccaro is the chief prosecutor in the Sicilian port city of Catania.
He claims to have evidence of phone calls between people smugglers and some aid groups but a criminal investigation has not been opened against any NGO.
Charities have denied the claims, saying their only goal is to save lives.