BUDAPEST, Hungary – The Latest on Europe migration issues (all times local):
An aid group that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean is denouncing suggestions it’s in cahoots with smugglers, saying its mission is to simply save lives.
SOS Mediterranee hosted a news conference Friday aboard its rescue ship Aquarius following increased scrutiny about the increase in non-governmental organizations working rescue operations off Libya’s coast.
The group’s vice president, Sophie Beau, says SOS Mediterranee has never had contact with smugglers and that its mandate is to save lives, funded mostly by donations from private individuals and small associations.
The European Union’s Frontex border control agency said in its 2017 risk assessment report that the huge increase in NGOs working the Mediterranean was having the “unintended consequences” of fueling smugglers’ business.
Catania’s chief prosecutor testified to a parliamentary committee last week about the phenomenon.
The Hungarian interior ministry says the expansion of two border container camps where asylum-seekers have to wait until their cases are decided has been completed.
The ministry said Friday that prison inmates were used to put 324 additional containers in the camps built on the Serbian border at the towns of Roszke and Tompa.
Hungary’s new asylum rules, in place March 21, have been widely condemned by U.N. agencies and human rights advocates. Hungary plans to close the remaining refugee reception centers in the country and transfer all asylum-seekers older than 14 to the border camps.
Only a handful of asylum-seekers a day can present their applications at the camps, built by Hungary along with fences protected by razor wire on the Serbian and Croatian borders in 2015.