Several media sources have claimed that the reduction in migrant numbers into Italy has come about because of a secret agreement between the Italians and people traffickers – allegations the government denies.
According to media reports, the Italian government, along with the Libyan government, has been working with several militias, who are also accused of being involved in trafficking themselves, to stop the flow of migrants into the Mediterranean, Tiroler Tageszeitung reports.
On Wednesday, the Italian Foreign Ministry addressed the issue in a statement saying: “The Italian government is not negotiating with traffickers.”
According to an article published by the Associated Press, the government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj is paying the militias to prevent migrants from making the voyage across the sea.
The AP claims that the plan is also backed by the Italian government and said that local security officials in the Libyan port city of Sabratha told them that Italian officials had met directly with the militias to negotiate a deal.
“Yesterday’s traffickers are today’s anti-trafficking force,” the security official said but warned: “When the honeymoon is over between them and the Italians, we will be facing a more dangerous situation.”
Migrant Crisis: EU to Fund Libyan Coastguard to Combat People Smuggling
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 13, 2017
Both the Italian government and the European Union have given Libya funds to combat people smuggling, mostly to expand and fund the Libyan coastguard. The coastguard has been more active in recent weeks and has confronted pro-migrant NGO vessels off the coast of the country, forcing many to abandon or suspend their missions.
The number of migrants crossing the sea has declined so rapidly in recent weeks that some NGOs who are still active in the search and rescue (SAR) area have complained about the lack of boats.
Breitbart London had reported this week that in the previous 20 days, there had been zero deaths from drownings due to the dwindling numbers of migrants attempting to cross.