With a neutral tone and a forked tongue, the Executive Director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, spoke at a hearing on Wednesday before the Defense Committee of the Senate.
He was asked to respond by the president and Nicola Latorre as part of an information search “on abnormal, unlawful activities” of NGOs that manage the rescue of migrants at sea, reported by Frontex months ago “and also by bloggers,” Latorre insists. The director of Frontex made things worse — he did not provide a shred of proof, only “words quoted by some migrants in the debriefings, in our hearings in the hot-spots.”
He notes two “paradoxes.” The first one: There have never been so many public vessels in the Mediterranean — military patrol boats of the Sophia and Triton missions, including the 11 Frontex ships, with a large spending of public financial resources — while the relief efforts are made by “two-thirds” of the vessels managed by humanitarian NGOs.
Frontex intervenes only in 12 percent of the cases; its task is to monitor the borders and reject illegal aliens. In recent months, rescues have been taking place closer to the Libyan coast, around the 20 nautical miles from shore. Leggeri highlights that until two years ago, rescues were carried out at sea. He also said that “men in uniform on Libya’s west coast are in contact with the NGOs that carry out the rescues.” His only source, again, was anonymous migrants.
Here the story becomes more confusing: “In some cases, they even say that these western Libyan guards make death threats against women and children, to the NGOs to keep them from saving those boats.” He explains: ”We still guard the coast in the eastern part.” And he forgot to relate the data on rescues closest to the coast with the documented destruction of wooden boats and the switch of migrants to the use of half burst rafts, as reported by admiral Credendino to the senators.
Leggeri’s second “paradox”: When the NGOs became “the protagonists” of the rescue, the number of victims and landings from Libya have increased by 25 percent. Leggeri does not link the two figures, he only says that “it is something quite strange, to be investigated.”
Another vitriolic testimonial collected by Frontex: “In some cases, the smugglers give migrants the phone number of an NGO.” At this point, Leggeri pretends not to hear the concerns of Senator Silvana Amati of the Democratic Party, who said, ”Admiral Credendino, who spoke about the excellent relations with NGOs, said that about 70 percent of the satellite calls from dinghies go to the hotline of the Italian Coast Guard; only 0.8 percent call the NGOs.”
“We save lives,” responded Michael Buschheuer, of the German NGO Sea-Eye. “We do not help traffickers.” But Giorgia Meloni rejoices: According to her, the NGOs must be denounced for aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
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