The arrest of fifteen alleged human smugglers in Calabria represents the first application of the so-called "Cutro decree" which introduces a 20 to 30 years prison sentence for human traffickers. Last week, 13 Egyptian and three Syrian nationals were arrested.
The Italian government's decree against human traffickers after the shipwreck in Steccato di Cutro on February 26, which resulted in the verified death of 93 persons, has now been applied for the first time.
The Prosecutor's office in Locri, in the region of Calabria, last week detained 15 alleged human traffickers accused of four ship arrivals on March 23, 24, and 26, bringing over one thousand migrants to the ports of Roccella Ionica and Reggio Calabria.
The Prosecutor's office has considered the new crime of "death or injury as a consequence of crimes of clandestine migration," a violation introduced by the so-called "Cutro decree", punishable with up to 30 years in prison.
On two of the boats, there were also two dead bodies.
Also read: Death toll rises following Italian shipwreck, as criticism mounts
New charges against 11 of the 15 alleged human traffickers
The Coast Guard's general commander, Admiral Nicola Carlone, said his conscience is clear: "We did what needed to be done. When a tragedy happens one feels close to those who suffered and Cutro was a huge tragedy. We should surely think about it and we are certain that the judiciary will shed light [on what happened]."
The inquiries on the traffickers were conducted by the rapid response team of Reggio Calabria and by the police in Siderno with the cooperation of the Finance Guard and the Coast Guard.
Four Egyptians are under investigation for the arrival of 23 March in Roccella Ionica: on that occasion, 210 migrants were rescued at sea by the coast guard.
On the following night, another 185 migrants arrived in Roccella, rescued and brought to land by the Coast Guard, while another 110 arrived in the port of Reggio Calabria, on a patrol boat of the Finance Guard.
Those found responsible for the arrival of the migrants are four Egyptians and three Syrians. They are the ones who are being found guilty of the new crime since a young Pakistani man is believed to have died due to their actions.
The same crime is also attributed to four Egyptians who are considered to be responsible for the dangerous journey of 312 migrants ending on 26 March in Roccella Ionica.
A Syrian national died on that journey. The migrant, whose travel companions stated was in precarious health conditions due to diabetes could have been saved had he been assisted appropriately, according to the charges filed by the prosecutor.
Also read: Saving her son: national soccer player from Pakistan among victims of shipwreck
Cutro survivors: 32 have left for Germany
Meanwhile, the UN Organization for Migration (IOM) organized the departure from Cutro on a Germany-bound charter flight from the airport in Crotone for 32 survivors of the shipwreck.
They obtained the relocation by requesting international protection.
Before their departure, they took numerous selfies with the volunteers who helped them to overcome that dramatic moment, as well as with the police officers of the police station and the Prefecture's employees.
All of this took place in an atmosphere that the Prefecture itself defined as "highly emotional".
In the meantime, the search for the missing migrants has not stopped, the aim is to give everyone a proper burial. Admiral Carlone attributed the shipwreck to "stranding. That boat sailed regularly for four days across the Greek isles, therefore it was able to sail."
And with the NGOs there is no war, he underscored; the humanitarian ships "conduct rescue missions, and carry out their job at sea. Of these units, ten have set sail again: only a few were stopped, to safeguard the ship itself".
In any case, he added, it is not politics that decides if intervention is needed for a ship in difficulty, since "the rescue operations are assessed at the lowest levels, given the need to intervene very rapidly."