The Italian migrant transport NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans has been accused of taking €125,000 to transport illegal aliens, with new claims alleging the group initially asked for as much as €270,000.
The claims revolve around a ship belonging to the Danish company Maersk which picked up 27 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea in August of last year. The NGO is accused of negotiating a payment to transfer the migrants to its transport vessel, the Mare Jonio, weeks later, on September 11th.
In November, Maersk reportedly transferred €125,000 ($151, 000/£108,000) to Idra Social Shipping, the company that owns the Mare Jonio. It is claimed that the money was negotiated before the NGO picking up the migrants and that initially the group had asked for €275,000 ($331,000/£237,000), Il Giornale reports.
While neither Maersk nor Idra Social Shipping denies the cash transfer took place, both claim that the money was agreed upon weeks after the migrant transfer and not before.
Head of Migrant Transport NGO Under Investigation for People Trafficking https://t.co/ULkq8SXvV7
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 4, 2019
Idra Social Shipping stated that the money was agreed to recognise the costs incurred by the Mare Jonio during its mission in the Mediterranean.
Italian prosecutors, meanwhile, say that the NGO was looking to profit from picking up the migrants and released information that Beppe Caccia, a board member of the NGO, had been on the phone to a Danish number four times from September 8th to the 10th.
The case is not the first time Mediterranea Saving Humans has come under investigation from Italian authorities in recent years. In April of 2019, police interrogated co-founder Luca Casarini regarding allegations that the group helped facilitate illegal migration.
Other NGOs picking up migrants in the Mediterranean have also been accused of directly working with traffickers to get migrants to Europe.
For example, the German Joint Analysis and Strategy Centre for Illegal Migration (Gasim) stated last July that people-smugglers actively tracked the location of NGO ships off the Libyan coast, saying: “According to refugees and migrants, smugglers used the tracking function on various websites to determine the location of NGO ships and contacted them in individual cases using a satellite phone.”
German Authorities Claim People Smugglers Tracking NGO Ships and Directing Migrants to Them https://t.co/Y6tCtwEiUO
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 10, 2020