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Jun 08, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

Illegal Migration: What is going on in the Mediterranean Sea?

An interesting video surfaced recently in the deep corners of Youtube, a two-minute clip that uses open-source information on marine traffic to allegedly show how pro-migration NGO vessels are shuttling illegal migrants from the coast of Libya to Italy.

The video corroborates information reported by Frontex, the EU’s official border control agency, in its annual risk analysis and reports that have appeared in recent months in the BBC and other major media outlets. The allegations, that humanitarian NGOs are working in collusion with smugglers and criminal gangs in an illegal human trafficking operation, are serious, and Europeans deserve to know what’s happening on their coastal borders in the Mediterranean.

Two years ago, as the migration crisis escalated, Hungary found itself in the media spotlight. Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia were demonstrating in Budapest, clashing with police at the train station and on the streets of the capital. They were demanding to be allowed to pass through to Germany or another country of the EU without undergoing the proper background checks and lawful immigration procedures.

The hands of Hungarian authorities were tied. At that time, the southern border was not yet secured with the fence, so thousands were entering illegally every day. Hungarian authorities, according to European rules, could not allow the illegal immigrants to travel onward, nor could we force them to stay put. All we could do was offer them shelter at a migrant processing center ask them to comply with the law by requesting asylum and waiting patiently for their case to be decided.

That approach failed, as we know, as hundreds of thousands of migrants ignored Europe’s immigration laws and traveled on illegally to Austria, Germany and beyond.

Today, the entry point to Europe’s Schengen Area on Hungary’s southern border is secure thanks to the fence. Asylum seekers can apply at the official border stations, but they cannot cross the green borders and must wait in Hungary until their asylum request is being decided. Hungary has shown that if there’s a will to stop illegal immigration, there’s a way.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for parts of Europe’s border on the Mediterranean Sea. Rumors have been circulating for some time about illegals being picked up right at the shores of North Africa and brought illegally to Europe. Once there, they are by law required to stay put, but in practice, they have arrived in the Schengen Area and soon disappear into Europe.

This video reportedly records this traffic. A Dutch NGO, Gefire, used marinetraffic.com to trace the traffic of ships owned by NGOs traveling between Libya and Italy. According to their findings, in a two-month period, the NGO vessels helped transport tens of thousands of migrants illegally to Europe. It also identifies the NGOs by name, a list that contains some of the most prominent, pro-migration, humanitarian organizations.

The video’s allegations fit reports we have seen coming from other sources. An Italian prosecutor, Carmelo Zuccaro said that there is “evidence that there are direct contacts between certain NGOs and people traffickers in Libya," BBC reported. Frontex, Europe’s border protection agency in their official risk analysis, came to similar conclusions: “a significant number of [human trafficking] boats were intercepted or rescued by NGO vessels without any prior distress call and without official information as to the rescue location. NGO presence and activities close to, and occasionally within, the 12-mile Libyan territorial waters nearly doubled.”

The story is deeply troubling. NGOs like these – some certainly motivated by what they think are good intentions – were also active on the Western Balkans migration route in 2015, informing migrants on how to enter Europe illegally. Now, it appears that these NGOs are colluding with human traffickers and criminal organizations in an operation abetting illegal immigration to Europe.

What’s going on in the Mediterranean, and why can’t Europe put a stop to this illegal immigration? Europe’s citizens deserve answers to these questions and an honest effort to secure the EU’s borders.