Friday, December 02, 2022

Italy launches campaign against people smuggling

MILAN ( Associated Press) – Italian police issued arrest warrants Thursday for 18 Italian and Tunisian nationals accused of operating a people-smuggling ring in speedboats between the Tunisian coast and Sicilian ports.

The suspects are alleged to have deposited 3,000 to 3,500 euros ($3,100 to $5,200) in cash per person, on trips with 10 to 30 passengers per boat, which gave them a reported 30,000 to 70,000 euros for each four-hour trip. Gave. Police in a statement

The investigation began in February 2019 after a fisherman spotted a 10-metre-long carbon fiber boat with two 200-horsepower engines in the Sicilian port of Gela. Investigators discovered the boat had been stolen 10 days earlier in Catania, Sicily.

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The arrest warrants were for 11 Tunisians and seven Italians. They are accused of illegal cross-border smuggling of more than five people, inhumane treatment and endangering the lives of migrants, as well as crimes for profit.

A Tunisian couple, already convicted of people-trafficking, have been identified as the alleged leaders of the plot.

Two Tunisians based in Sicily were accused of managing the money, while five Italians allegedly arranged for the migrants’ accommodation and movement to and from ports.

The warrants also identify four other alleged traffickers, one Italian and three Tunisians, as well as four Tunisians who were associated with migrants in North Africa.

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The arrest was also ordered of the owner of a small farm with a private airfield that allegedly served as the plot’s base. Farmer was accused of providing employment documents for some Tunisian members to legalize their presence in Italy.

Although the new Italian government has gone behind humanitarian rescue ships that pick up migrants from Libya in the central Mediterranean, most migrants arriving in Italy travel via Tunisia routes.

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