Court Investigating Pro-Migrant NGO for People Smuggling

Turmoil exploited by people smugglers since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi has made

Dresden-based migrant rescue NGO “Mission Lifeline” is now under investigation from Saxony prosecutors who allege they group may be participating in people smuggling.

The members of “Mission Lifeline” have yet to set sail into the Mediterranean and are already under investigation by the prosecutor’s office in Dresden. The NGO has so far raised 190,000 euros with a target of 240,000 to crew a boat to the Libyan coast where they plan to rescue migrants Tagesspiegel reports.

A spokesman for the federal police in Pirna confirmed that the group was under investigation for people smuggling. Lorenz Haase, spokesman for the Dresden prosecutors office said that a criminal complaint had been filed against the NGO and the prosecutor was investigating the matter to “clarify the facts.”

Axel Steier, the head of Mission Lifeline, said he thought the letter he received telling him to appear before the Dresden police was a fake. He called the accusations of people smuggling “absurd” and accused the Dresden judiciary of “persecuting” the group.

A few days ago the NGO, along with several others who perform rescue operations in along the Libyan coast and bring the migrants back to Europe, wrote a letter denouncing the Libyan coast guard. They accused the Libyan’s of “hindering the work” of the rescue boats and called for the European Union to stop giving the Libyan government money.   

A Libyan coastguard vessel almost collided with a ship belonging to the NGO “Sea-Watch” last month after accusing the NGO of operating within Libyan territorial waters. Coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said: “An international rescue organisation called Sea-Watch tried to hinder the work of our coastguard … in a bid to take the migrants, claiming Libya is not safe for migrants.”

Sea-Watch has also weighed in on the Dresden case. Spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said of the prosecutor’s office, “Dresden has no seaport, and you have to expect a certain ignorance of the international maritime law.”

Many have accused the various NGOs, many of which are based in Germany, of working with people smugglers directly including several Italian prosecutors. 

Some, like the European Union border agency Frontex, has said that the presence of the ships, which always take the migrants to Europe, only furthers to encourage more migrants and the people smugglers. 

Government officials are not the only ones attempting to call out the NGOs for people smuggling. The hipster-right Identitarian youth movement recently blocked the passage of an NGO ship that was leaving Sicily for Libya last month.

After the action, the group declared that they would raise money to buy a seaworthy ship and track the NGO’s activity to investigate whether they were working with people smugglers. The group raised over 65,000 euros but had their PayPal and bank accounts shut down after outrage from pro-migrant groups.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at 


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