Are NGOs Aiding Criminals By Rescuing Migrants? Border Control Thinks So.

Photo courtesy of NoBorder NetworkBy Marci Otranto
M.A. Candidate 2018

2 May 2017

In the on-going refugee and migrant crisis taking place in the Mediterranean Sea, non-governmental agencies (NGOs) have played a large role in rescuing people from drowning en route to Europe. But their humanitarian efforts are not always applauded.

Frontex, the European Union’s border control agency, accuses NGOs of acting as “taxis”, picking up migrants from the sea near the coast of Libya and escorting them into the EU, adding to the influx of over 1.3 million migrants and refugees that have crossed the Mediterranean since 2015 and intensifying the strain on the EU.

Fabrice Leggeri, the director of Frontex, claims that NGO rescue operations “support criminal networks” and encourage human traffickers to pack and send more people across the sea. He has previously stated that saving the lives of refugee was not a priority for Frontex.

On just one weekend in April, NGOs were responsible for saving over 2,000 migrants in a single day from sinking rafts off the Libyan coast. Already this year over 600 people have been reported dead or missing off the Libyan coast. This death count, though tragic, is still down from last year when over 5,000 died while crossing the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. NGOs play a major role in saving lives as they venture much farther than Frontex and Coast Guard vessels, which stay within 50 kilometers of EU shores.

Though Frontex has raised legitimate concerns about protecting the EU’s borders and the role that NGOs play in escorting countless migrants into the EU, without NGOs thousands more would perish while crossing. Frontex should instead focus on the reception and processing of migrants and refugees who often stay for long periods of time in makeshift camps while officials decide how to distribute and relocate them.

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Photo courtesy of NoBorder Network

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