Six migrant smuggling suspects have been arrested in northern Italy. One man is accused of running a smuggling ring that transferred migrants from Milan to Switzerland and Germany.
The primary suspect was arrested by police in Porto Ceresio, a province about 50 kilometers north of Milan that is located right across Lake Lucano from Switzerland.
The 41-year-old Algerian national faces charges of aiding and abetting illegal migration.
Italian authorities believe that he set up an operating cell of an organization that took undocumented Iraqi and Syrian migrants from Milan to northern Europe, following an investigation conducted in collaboration with the Swiss authorities.
Five other suspects were also arrested during the police operation -- they were reportedly intercepted at Porto Ceresio border crossing in vehicles that had migrants on board.
Arrest after months of police monitoring
Police had reportedly been monitoring the man's activities for months. He is a resident in Italy and owns a small business.
Investigators believe that between October 2021 and May 2022, he helped to smuggle 20 Kurdish migrants from Syria and Iraq -- including 9 minors -- across the border to Switzerland.
At his home, police reportedly found a young Syrian woman with three young children who were waiting to cross into Switzerland.
How the smuggling hub allegedly operated
Investigators believe that the smuggled migrants originally arrived in southern Italy after crossing the Mediterranean Sea, and then headed northward.
The suspect reportedly welcomed the migrants who arrived via train from Milan and hosted them temporarily in his home. According to police, he then handed the migrants over to alleged accomplices -- reported to be mostly Syrians -- who drove them across the Swiss border by car, according to investigators. Most migrants aim to reach Germany, according to Italian media.
Police said that some of the suspects in the case have also been accused of selling drugs.