Police in Italy have arrested members of a migrant trafficking organization and seized thousands of euros in cash. A two-year investigation linked people across Italy with smugglers operating in Turkey and Greece.
Italian police have arrested 19 people across Italy in connection with a migrant-smuggling ring, according to a police announcement on Twitter.
The smuggling ring charged migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan around €6,000 ($7,270) for transportation from the Eastern Mediterranean, through Italy, and eventually into France. The group also provided migrants with fake documents.
Saturday's official announcement on Twitter said: "19 arrested for aiding and abetting clandestine immigration to Bari, Milan, Turin, and Ventimiglia by mobile units from Syracuse, Bari, Imperia, Turin, Milan, and state police forces. Criminal groups in Turkey and Greece aided the migrants in their journey towards France and northern Europe."
The authorities seized 16 telephones, four laptops, various documents and €25,000 in cash. A statement from Italian police described the network as "a means of connecting criminal groups active in Turkey and Greece which organized migrant transport … in exchange for large sums of money."
The investigation into the ring began in 2018 after the arrival of 10 boats in Sicily which came from Turkey and Greece rather than Libya — the regular crossing point for hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to enter Europe.
The ring paid boat skippers around €800 per crossing and then supplied the migrants with falsified documents including proof of residence and work contracts to support their applications for residency permits.
The cost of the journey was often paid by relatives via money transfer or at "collection points" in Turkey, according to the Italian police.
Some of the migrants were taken north through the Italian peninsula to the French border to carry on their journey into northern Europe, the preferred destination for many seeking refuge and economic stability.
Police reported that one suspect was stopped at the railway station in Ventimiglia, a town close to the French border, on the way to transport a group of migrants into France.
ab/rc (dpa, AFP, AP)
First published: December 5, 2020
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