A sailboat used to transport migrants stranded on a beach in Calabria | Photo: Antonello Lupis / SGH
A sailboat used to transport migrants stranded on a beach in Calabria | Photo: Antonello Lupis / SGH

Bari police on February 10 arrested two alleged smugglers believed to have illegally taken 32 migrants to the town of Marina di San Gregorio in the Italian region of Puglia. Investigators said they found maps and nautical routes connecting Greece to Italy on the suspects' phones.

On February 10, police in Bari arrested two alleged migrant smugglers. Investigators believe the suspects, aged 30, illegally took 32 migrants to Marina di San Gregorio, in the area of Patù, on February 9 -- a case which was being investigated by Lecce flying squad police.

Investigators found maps and nautical routes connecting Greece to Italy's southern coast on the suspects' phones, as well as photos and videos of migrant crossings on a sailboat.

In some of the photos, the two men can be seen smiling at the helm of the boat, investigative sources said.

Police investigation

The pair, who are currently detained, were stopped by police for a routine check in Bari's Carrassi district on February 10. The suspects said they were Iranian and Syrian but security officials took them to the police station for identification because they didn't have documents.

When the men were taken in for questioning, investigators noticed they had a satellite phone, in addition to their cell phones.

With the help of an interpreter, investigators also found out that the men spoke Turkish and not the languages of their alleged home countries.

Images confirm connection with migrant landing

The information obtained by investigators, including documents found in the suspects' phones, were immediately shared with EU border agency Frontex personnel in the Puglia city of Taranto, which confirmed that the sailboat portrayed in the photos was the same boat that had run aground along the Salento coast on February 9.

That day a group of migrants -- all adult men of Iraqi and Iranian nationality -- reached the southern Italian coast of Puglia.

Rescued by Red Cross volunteers, the foreigners were wearing wet clothes and were in a state of severe hypothermia, volunteers said. Some of them had severe injuries and three of them required hospitalization, they added.

The migrants, presumably before the ship ran aground, were in fact forced to jump into the sea to swim to the coast. The vessel was detected by rescuers shortly after the migrants reached the coast.

 

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