An operation conducted by Italian police against Nigerian organized crime | Photo: ANSA/CIRO FUSCO
An operation conducted by Italian police against Nigerian organized crime | Photo: ANSA/CIRO FUSCO

Italy's national anti-mafia and anti-terrorism prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho has said that African criminal organizations are dangerous and are controling migration from Libya to Europe. He claimed that while the Nigerian mafia is currently the strongest, various organizations work together in a sort of consortium.

Investigations on migrant flows from Libya have brought to light a link between several African criminal organizations that support and facilitate the journey from the North African country to European coasts.

According to Italy's national anti-mafia and anti-terrorism prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho, these criminal organizations act "like a large consortium."

During a hearing at the Schengen Committee of the Italian parliament, de Raho said that "sometimes migrants who paid what is perceived to be too low a price [for their journey] are kept in concentration camps on the Libya coastline and demands are made for them to pay more." He also noted that the Nigerian mafia was currently "the strongest" of all these mafias.

De Raho said the networks stretch from Libya's coast guard right back to the migrants' country of origin, where local criminal organizations approach the victim's family and demand to be paid. "It is clear that this sort of system is of concern," the prosecutor said.

He further pointed out that the organizations were able to intimidate using violence. "Rebelling against the system means, for the victims, putting their families at risk," de Raho said.

Nigerian mafias extend across Italy

The Nigerian crime world has "sections in almost all Italian regions and all European countries," de Raho said. In Italy, there are various brotherhoods - such as the Axe, Eiye and - more recently - Viking that seem "for the time being not connected to each other." However, investigators believe "there may be a single leadership structure that overarches all of them," De Raho added.

The organizations were a form of mafia because they use mafia methods even though they do not do so for control of territory or generally commit crimes against Italians; as a matter of fact, they operate exclusively within the Nigerian community.

'Make it easier for victims to report'

In order to dismantle African criminal organizations, securing the collaboration of the victims of human trafficking was key, de Raho said. The victims were often hesitant to speak to the authorities out of fear of repercussions for their relatives who are still in their countries of origin, the prosecutor added.

He further said that regulations making it possible to grant residence permits to victims collaborating with law enforcement are very important. However, they do not "include family members. When the victim makes a statement, they worry about all of their family still in their country of origin," the prosecutor explained.

He further noted that "when some girls arrive on our coasts, they have already been sold, and they are aware of what to expect. Managing to convince them would be important, but this requires more commitment not only from investigating magistrates, but also from the organizations first receiving them."

That's why obtaining the information that can save these girls is "essential," de Raho said. Morevoer, stopping exploitation through prostitution at the outset could help "dismantle the organization" in its entirety.

"I realize that it is difficult, but this is the kind of effort that absolutely must be made," De Raho concluded.

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