Photos published by Neville Gafa which he claimed showed collusion between migrant rescue NGOs and human traffickers were taken three years ago.
Gafa, a former Maltese special envoy to Libya, today described NGOs as criminal groups who are in direct contact with African smugglers and are helping them coordinate clandestine voyages across the Mediterranean.
However, a Twitter thread by anonymous user BugM exposed how the photos were actually taken in 2017 and gleaned from a BBC report on how migrant smugglers were spotted during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean.
It’s cute that Neville Gafa has both Keith Schembri’s and the Labour Party’s back. @TheProgressives would (again) seek to boot out @PL_Malta if it became obvious that they were pandering (again) to the far right so “rogue” operators like Gafa become useful tools. 1/ pic.twitter.com/VjIFl5UiF3
— BugM (@bugdavem) August 25, 2020
Confronted by this, Gafa told Lovin Malta that the photos may be old but that he is convinced human smugglers and migrant rescue NGOs are in cahoots with each other.
“I’m building the picture bit by bit, people are fed up of this situation irrespective of which political party they support,” he said.
As “evidence” for collusion between traffickers and migrant rescue NGOs, Gafa questioned why smugglers send migrant boats out to sea as soon as rescue vessels sail close to Libyan waters and sometimes even remove engines from their boats once the vessels are in sight.
“There’s definitely contact between NGOs and traffickers, it’s all organised and well-studied,” he said.
There have long been allegations of collusion between migrant rescue vessels and human traffickers, with Italian prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro claiming in 2017 that phone calls were being made from Libya to rescue vessels.
However, his investigation found no proof that this was the case while the EU has said there is no evidence to suggest that NGOs are working with human smugglers. NGOs have also denounced these suggestions,
“It’s absolute nonsense,” a spokesman for the German humanitarian group Sea-Watch told Reuters in 2017. “We are funded entirely by donations.”
SOS Mediterranee co-founder Sophie Beau said her NGO was set up to respond to the moral and legal obligation to save lives at sea and that their operations are funded entirely by donations.