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Aid Group Denies Supporting Migrant Smugglers

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — An aid group that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean is denouncing suggestions it’s in cahoots with smugglers, saying its mission is to simply save lives.

SOS Mediterranee hosted a news conference Friday aboard its rescue ship Aquarius following increased scrutiny about the increase in non-governmental organizations working rescue operations off Libya’s coast.

The group’s vice president, Sophie Beau, says SOS Mediterranee has never had contact with smugglers and that its mandate is to save lives, funded mostly by donations from private individuals and small associations.

The European Union’s Frontex border control agency said in its 2017 risk assessment report that the huge increase in NGOs working the Mediterranean was having the “unintended consequences” of fueling smugglers’ business.

Catania’s chief prosecutor testified to a parliamentary committee last week about the phenomenon.

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