Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has complained that there is a “hate campaign” being directed against Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean by Italy and others.
The Director General of MSF in Italy, Gabriele Eminente commented on the current wave of negative publicity toward the NGOs. He also mentioned the actions of the hipster right Identitarian youth Movement who blocked one rescue ship, the “Aquarius” from leaving port late last week Salzburger Nachrichten reports.
“Our ship has only been able to leave the Libyan coast after the deployment of the Italian coast guard,” Eminente said at a meeting of the Immigration Commission at the Italian Parliament in Rome.
Eminente also railed against the various reports in which Italian prosecutors have accused various NGOs of collaborating with people smugglers in order to provide what has been described by some as a “taxi service” from North Africa to Europe.
According to Eminente, the allegations of collaboration were, “unacceptable, false and ridiculous,” and he said that as a result the reputations of the NGOs working in the Mediterranean had been severely damaged. Many of the organisations are said to have lost large amounts of cash over the past several months due to dwindling donations.
The Italian MSF chief touted the organisations work in the Mediterranean saying that their efforts had led to the rescue of around 60,000 individuals since April of 2015.
MSF spokesman Marco Bertotto argued against stopping the flow of mass migration saying, “the containment of refugee flows can be reasonable in the eyes of the public, but from a humanitarian point of view, the impact would be devastating.”
Bertotto argued for the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to allow migrants from Africa safe passage into Europe.
The Italian government recently commissioned a report from the Senate’s Defence Committee which argued for stricter rules to be placed on NGOs based in Italy and was firmly against the idea of a private “humanitarian corridor.”
There are around ten different organisations that carry out rescue operations in the Mediterranean, many of which are based in Germany. While MSF is the largest and most well-known, they have also received their fair share of criticism.
Aside from Italian prosecutors, the European Union border agency Frontex has also slammed MSF and others, saying that their actions only serve to encourage people smugglers and migrants.
“We must avoid supporting the business of criminal networks and traffickers in Libya through European vessels picking up migrants ever closer to the Libyan coast,” said the Frontex director, adding, “This leads traffickers to force even more migrants onto unseaworthy boats with insufficient water and fuel than in previous years.”
Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at email@example.com