Non-governmental organizations in Europe are fighting off allegations by an Italian lawyer accusing them of colluding with and aiding people smugglers on the Mediterranean.
“If we are not there to save these people and offer them a helping hand, then they will have no chance to survive,” said Riccardo Gatti, field coordinator on the Golfo Azzurro, which is operated by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms.
The number of migrants rescued from boats off the coast of Libya, where people smugglers operate with impunity, has jumped to more than 23,000 so far this year, 60 percent more than in the same period last year, and some 600 people are estimated to have drowned.
In all, 181,000 migrants reached Italy in 2016 – about half of the total who arrived in the European Union by sea – while 4,581 people are thought to have died trying to reach the country on flimsy, overpacked vessels.
Mariam Zaidi has more from Brussels.