Libyan Coastguardsman Claims He Saw Contacts Between Smugglers and NGOs


A commander in the Libyan coasts guard has claimed to have seen direct contact between migrant rescue NGOs working off the Libyan coast and people-smugglers.

The sailor, who commands one of the three patrol boats donated to Libya by the Italian government, said that he has seen direct evidence of smugglers contacting the NGOs using social media platforms, newspaper Il Giornale reports.

“I have personally seen many contacts on Facebook or Twitter between NGOs and smugglers and I see many contacts between them,” the commander, named Mustafa, said.

Describing his own interaction with the migrant rescue NGOs, Mustafa went on to say, “I speak with the NGOs, I ask them not to approach to avoid putting migrants’ lives at risk. But sometimes they are not listening.”

“They are not listening, they just want to take the migrants. And this creates a dangerous situation,” he added.

Prosecutors in Italy have alleged for years that migrant transport NGOs have been collaborating with people-smugglers to help migrants get aboard their vessels and into Italy.

In 2017, prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro claimed that phone calls were being made from Libya to the NGO vessels in the search and rescue (SAR) zone to co-ordinate the movement of migrants.

That same year, Italian authorities produced a number of photographs which they said showed German-based NGO Jugend Rettet had been co-operating with people-smugglers.

The photos showed what were alleged to be smugglers accompanying migrants being picked up by the NGO’s vessel, the Iuventa.

A former NGO worker also spoke out about the links between the activists and the traffickers last year.

Pietro Gallo, who worked security aboard the Vos Hestia, operated by NGO Save the Children, told Italian authorities about the links and said he had received death threats from activists and open borders supporters as a result.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.