Italian police on Saturday arrested 19 suspects in connection to illegally moving migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan to Italy and then into northern Europe, media reported.
The investigation led by prosecutors in Catania, Sicily unveiled a network that involved hired or stolen sailboats to transport migrants from Turkey and Greece to the Italian shores.
Some illegal migrants traveled to France by vehicle; the suspects include Iraqi Kurds, Afghans, and Italians, police in the country stated.
One of the traffickers’ base was in Bari southern Italy, where fake documents were issued to indicate migrants had housing permit, other bases were located in Milan and Turin in northern Italy as well as in the town Ventimiglia near the French border.
Authorities indicate, others allegedly in the scheme issued falsified working contracts, so the migrants could successfully apply for permission to live in Italy.
The investigation was triggered in 2018 when 10 boats arrived near the eastern Sicilian city of Syracuse. The boats sailed from Turkey and Greece, the eastern part of the Mediterranean but not from Libya where for years majority of illegal migrants had sailed to Italy by unseaworthy vessels.
Investigation ascertained activities of a network of Italians and foreigners, most of them holding residency permits issued on the grounds of international protection, according to the statement.
The right facilitated entrance, stay and transit of migrants toward northern Europe, migrants who mostly belong to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. One suspect was about to transport illegal migrants from the railroad station at Ventimiglia into France, a preferred smuggling destination in Europe.
These runaways were charged about $1000 per crossing through the boat, totally costing each person about $6000 to be smuggled from Asia via Turkey and Greece, police stated.
The ring cracked by the authorities was an essential link of connection with criminal groups active in Turkey and Greece.