Claims that refugee charities are paying criminal gangs of people traffickers to ferry desperate migrants to their rescue boats moored off Libya have been made by a senior Libyan coastguard official.

According to the Mail on Sunday the official, Colonel Tarek Shamboor, has documentary evidence that charities pay the gangs, which charge up to £450 per migrant, and which are responsible for thousands of deaths by drowning as their unsafe and overcrowded vessels sink.

The accusations have been denied by the charities.

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