“NGOs are part of the business model of human traffickers.” So declared Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of the German domestic intelligence service between 2012 and 2018, that is the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Fifty-six-year old Maaßen was born in Mönchengladbach, and was appointed head of the services taking over from the Social Democrat Heinz Fromm. He was dismissed in September 2018, following a meeting in Berlin between Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer and Andrea Nahles, head of the Social Democratic Party, due to a verbal confrontation with Chancellor Merkel regarding anti-immigrant protests in Chemnitz, and Maaßen’s alleged sympathies towards Alternative for Germany (AfD). Recently, his name has come back into the spotlight in Italy, after he shared an article on Twitter taken from the blog Journalistenwatch, which states that events involving the rescue ship Sea Watch and Carola Rackete were a mise en scene put on by public TV broadcaster Ard, and therefore the German government, to the detriment of Italy. This thesis, Hans-Georg Maaßen, as he explains to us in the exclusive interview below, “cannot confirm,” but neither will he categorically deny.  

Dr Maaßen, do you think there could be someone in Europe who is using the issue of immigration to try and weaken Italy? 

I don’t think anybody in Europe wants to weaken Italy or the Italian government through the immigration issue. I think the topic touches a number of interests: traffickers who make lots of money by exploiting immigration to Europe, a lot more money than through drug trafficking; NGOs sometimes acting with a quasi-fanatical religious zeal, and other NGOs which make money out of it. As well as a number of individual European countries that are secretly pleased if Europe is destabilized.   

Do you think that the true role of NGOs is solely to save human lives?

Their main priority appears to be their quasi-fanatical religious zeal toward migration to Europe. The migrants themselves are not the priority for these dangerous fanatics; they are only the means by which they can prove to the world and to themselves their moral superiority. That said, there are certainly also NGOs that make a profit through their operations. If NGOs were really only interested in rescue missions at sea, they would not be transporting migrants to the coast of Europe when the safest and nearest ports following these “at sea rescue missions” are located along the North African coast in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Countries where the Germans like to spend their holidays. 

Do you believe there is a connection between traffickers and the NGOs?

I cannot confirm that there exists a planned cooperation between NGOs and traffickers. Irrespective of this, they are a part of the traffickers’ business model in that they are taking on board migrants almost like a shuttle service in the middle of the open sea where they have been abandoned by the traffickers in unsafe boats.

But who finances the NGOs?

I assume the NGOs are prevalently financed by private donations. 

What should the Italian government do regarding immigration from North Africa and what do you think of the policies of the Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini? Is “shutting down the ports” a solution?

My personal point of view is that immigration through the Mediterranean Sea should immediately be stopped. The first thing to do in order to reach this objective is prevent the boats from leaving the North African ports and coasts and to redirect any boats in the Mediterranean Sea carrying migrants back to North Africa or other non-European countries in order to strike a decisive blow to trafficking. Together we were successful in defeating piracy off the Horn of Africa by adopting strict measures. Now we must break the backbone of this trade in human being and put an end to human trafficking. 

In Europe, the majority of the population is against “opening the borders” to mass immigration. What is your position on the matter? 

I agree with the opinion expressed by the majority of the European population. I have always been in favour of the fight against mass immigration with all the necessary tools made available by our countries’ legal systems. 

Is it true, as some Italian newspapers have written, that Germany sedates migrants before sending them back to Italy?  

I know nothing of this. 

As former head of the German secret service, what do you believe are the greatest dangers threatening European countries? Are radical Islamism and terrorism still threats that should not be underestimated?  

Terrorism and Islamist extremism still are and always will be a great threat for Europe.  The biggest threat lies in the destabilization of the European democracies and a weakening of unity within the EU. Unfortunately, the migrant crisis also plays a role in this.