According to think tank Gefira, for two months a number of aid agencies have smuggled nearly 40 000 migrants to Europe. Officially, they devote themselves to rescue migrants in distress at sea. But by tracking the movements of the aid agencies’ ships, Gefira has concluded that they actually meet up with the smuggling ships just off the Libyan coast, there to take on board the migrants.
In an example shown on gefira.org, it appears that the official description of the daily activity stated by the NGO is inconsistent with information about the movements of the ship Golfo Azuro. The vessel is used by the Dutch aid agency Stichting Bootvluchting.
The video shows how the ship, along with three other ships from aid agencies, move to a point 8.3 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. On its website the aid agency claims to have sailed out after a call from the Italian Coast Guard, however, stating another location. Ten hours after the call, a tug from a Libyan port sails out with course straight toward the group of vessels. Two nautical miles away from them it stops and turns back the way it came.
The next day, it is reported on the website of the aid agency, that it has conducted a rescue operation in the Sicilian Strait, that is, in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia, well north of the vessels’ actual position. At the so-called rescue operation, a three-year Nigerian boy and 17 other people are said to have disappeared. The 113 people who were “rescued” were not transferred to the nearest safe port in Tunisia, but to Sicily.
Migrants from Africa are taken aboard and transported across the Mediterranean to Europe. Photo: MOAS
Gefira strongly questions if this is really all about rescue operations, and instead suspects human trafficking. Gefira also claims that the operations would not be possible without the authorities’ consent and mentions the following organizations suspected of participating in the smuggling: MOAS, Jugend Rettet, Stichting Bootvluchting, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), Save the Children, Proactiva Open Arms, Sea-Watch.org, Sea-Eye and Life Boat.
MOAS, Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which appears to be a key player in this activity, was founded in 2013 by the Malta-based American businessman Chris Catrambone. He began his career as an employee of the US Congress, continued in the insurance business and then started a company of his own. His company, Tangiers Group, since 2006 has grown from a company with three employees engaged in Iraq to, today, having operations in 110 countries, with an unknown number of employees. Gefira questions the way this business has been able to provide sufficient revenues to Catrambone with his own money buying a ship and operate the MOAS. One possible explanation could be that the company gets huge revenues from “rescue operations”.
MOAS is headed by former Maltese Supreme Commander Martin Xuereb and some other personnel with either military backgrounds in Malta or in private security. Since MOAS operations always end with the migrants being brought ashore in Italy and not in the home port in Malta, Gefira speculates whether the Maltese military element is the result of a desire of migrants not ending up in Malta. One of the executives, the Maltese former Major Ian Ruggier, was previously responsible for maintaining order among the migrants then living in Malta and had attracted very harsh criticism for his ruthless methods.
Gefira is a Dutch foundation focused on analysing the current geopolitical and financial instability.
Official traffic data shows that the ships are leaving their Italian ports and stop just before reaching the coast of Libya, where they stay for a while and then go back again. This shuttle traffic goes on day after day. Officially, MOAS states that their ships were in the Sicilian Strait, marked with a blue cross in the map. Map: Gefira
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