Italian security forces have arrested two alleged migrant smugglers in two separate operations in the country's northeastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The suspects are a Syrian national who was transporting 34 migrants and a Pakistani man who was travelling with a man from his home country who was also undocumented.
Italian Carabinieri have arrested two men accused of aiding and abetting undocumented migration in two distinct operations.
One -- a 22-year-old Syrian national residing in Germany -- was arrested on Saturday (July 16) at the Passo Pramollo border crossing in Pontebba (northeastern Italy) while driving a van with an Austrian licence plate.
After eluding a checkpoint, he was followed and stopped before he could let off the 34 foreign nationals -- all of whom adults and of different nationalities -- that were onboard, crowded into the back of the van, according to police reports. The migrants were all undocumented and have been placed in a reception center in the Friuli region.
Both residents of Germany with Austrian licence plates
The Carabinieri said that they had previously arrested a Pakistani national also for aiding and abetting undocumented migration.
The man, 34, was also a resident of Germany and had been checked at the exit to the A/23 highway of San Leopoldo in the Pontebba municipality while driving a vehicle with an Austrian licence plate.
In his vehicle was a 44-year-old Pakistani man without proper documents who was also taken to a migrant reception center, while the vehicle was seized.
The Syrian driver was put into a detention facility in Trieste, while the Pakistani man was taken to a facility in Vicenza.
Rise in migration along Balkan route
Police said the checks were carried out as part of operations against irregular migration along the Balkan route, with other police forces, under the coordination of the Udine prefect's office.
The Balkan route is the European migration route that saw the sharpest rise in flow in the first half of 2022, according to EU border control agency Frontex.
In six months, undocumented entrances into the EU this year rose by 84% compared with the same period of 2021 to 114,720.
Of these, about half were seen on the Balkan route with 55,321 irregular crossings, almost three times the total seen in the first six months of last year.
According to the EU agency, this increase on the route is due to crossing attempts by migrants already in the area. The main nationalities using this route include Syrians, Afghans, and Turks.