The claim that migrant "rescue ships" have been acting as people traffickers or working with them has been circulating on anti-immigration blogs for a while. There are websites, like VesselFinder (link), where you can track the movements of individual ships. When you search for these "rescue ships", you often see them lingering just off the coast of Libya. Now Frontex has confirmed they are indeed working hand in hand with the people traffickers.
The EU’s border agency has accused charities operating in the Mediterranean of colluding with people smugglers, according to confidential reports seen by the Financial Times.
The accusations from Frontex bring to the fore a long-simmering dispute between EU officials and non-governmental organisations over how to resolve a migration crisis that has caused the deaths of 4,700 people this year alone.
Frontex put its concerns in a confidential report last month, raising the idea that migrants had been given “clear indications before departure on the precise direction to be followed in order to reach the NGOs’ boats”.
The agency made the accusation explicitly in another report last week, which stated: “First reported case where the criminal networks were smuggling migrants directly on an NGO vessel”.
NGOs operating in the region emphatically denied working with people smugglers. Elsewhere in the reports, which are shared among EU officials and diplomats, Frontex says people rescued by NGO vessels were often “not willing to co-operate with debriefing experts at all” with some claiming “that they were warned [by NGOs] not to co-operate with Italian law enforcement or Frontex”.
The number of rescues triggered by a distress signal fell from roughly two-thirds of all incidents this summer to barely one in 10 in October, according to Frontex figures. This drop-off coincided with a jump in the number of rescues carried out by NGOs in the central Mediterranean. They responded to more than 40 per cent of rescues in October, compared with just 5 per cent at the start of the year.Source