German Authorities Claim People Smugglers Tracking NGO Ships and Directing Migrants to Them

Members of the Spanish NGO Maydayterraneo take a group of migrants from Bangladesh, Afghan
PABLO GARCIA/AFP via Getty Images

The German Joint Analysis and Strategy Centre for Illegal Migration (Gasim) has claimed that people smugglers in North Africa are actively tracking migrant transport NGO vessels and sending migrants to them.

The agency, which is based in Potsdam, analyses information on illegal migration and smuggling operations for several federal authorities including the Federal Criminal Police Office, Federal Police, Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

An internal Gasim report, obtained by German newspaper Die Welt, has claimed that smugglers in Libya are very aware of the return of migrant transport NGOs in the Libyan search and rescue (SAR) zone in recent weeks.

“In the presence of NGO ships, concerted departures from Libya were noted. According to refugees and migrants, smugglers use the tracking function on various websites to determine the location of NGO ships and contacted them in individual cases using a satellite phone,” the report stated.

The report backs up earlier accusations by Italian prosecutors in 2017 that NGOs were working directly with people smugglers in Libya to help transport migrants to Europe.

Gasim stated that NGO vessels had brought more than two-thirds of the migrants who arrived in the first two months of this year, before the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, to Italy and Malta.

In those first two months, migration numbers to Italy surged by 948 per cent compared to the year before when populist Senator Matteo Salvini served as Italy’s interior minister and enforced a strict policy of rejecting NGO vessels from Italian ports.

Even without the presence of NGO vessels, the Gasim report claims many migrants have tried to cross to Europe anyway. “Despite the absence of NGO ships, more than 800 migrants reached the Italian island of Lampedusa on their own in late April/early May or were taken in by excursion and commercial ships in the Maltese SAR zone,” they said.

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


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