Italian and Slovenian police say they have foiled an international criminal organization that helped migrants travel from a center for asylum seekers in Ljubljana to European countries -- mainly Italy, France and Germany. Alleged members of the association included people in charge of security at the hosting facility, investigative sources said on November 20.
Investigators at the police department of Ljubljana and Italian police last week completed a joint investigation into a criminal organization that allegedly trafficked immigrants in Slovenia and Italy.
A total of 12 people were charged as part of the investigation, including seven suspects who were detained, the police department of the north-eastern Italian city of Trieste said on November 20.
The investigation was directed by prosecutors in Trieste, based on a European investigation order requested by Slovenian magistrates.
The probe was carried out by security officials and border police in Trieste together with officials in Rome. The criminal complaints and arrests were filed and carried out in Slovenia.
Security officials said they discovered at least 26 episodes in which the criminal organization aided and abetted illegal immigration with the illicit transfer of 108 immigrants.
Italian authorities, alerted by Slovenian police, reported eight episodes between June and October this year in which 31 immigrants were apprehended by police along the border between Italy and Slovenia in the woods between Trieste and Gorizia.
During one of these operations, an Afghan citizen was arrested in the north-eastern Italian city of Gorizia on charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration.
Illegal crossings organized at hosting center
The probe, which was mainly carried out in the Slovenian Republic, discovered a criminal group that favored illegal immigration from Turkey, Iraq, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia until Slovenia, and from Slovenia to other countries in the European Union, investigators in Trieste said.
In many cases Italy was the country of destination.Several members of the criminal group, who were waiting to obtain international protection, were staying at the hosting center in Ljubljana, where the illegal transfers were organized.
According to evidence discovered by Slovenian police, one of the main suspects, who is also an asylum seeker, managed contacts abroad with the other members of the organization in order to follow the arrival of migrants in Slovenia and their subsequent illegal transfer to Italy and to other EU member States.
Members of the criminal group were well informed regarding immigration laws within the European Union and police procedures, investigators said.
The group was structured and members had different roles: some organized the departure of migrants from the country of provenance while others selected the places where they would be staying along the way. Others selected payment methods and confirmation of the migrants' arrival at their final destination in order for payments to be completed, the sources said.