Italy arrests smugglers of migrants from Türkiye, Greece

People arrested suspected of being part of international criminal groups with cells in several countries

Giovanni Legorano  | 10.05.2023 - Update : 10.05.2023
Italy arrests smugglers of migrants from Türkiye, Greece


Italy’s police arrested on Wednesday 29 people accused of smuggling migrants from Türkiye and Greece in an operation dismantling an international criminal group, authorities said.

The authorities suspect the people arrested were part of a criminal gang with members in the three countries ferrying migrants across the eastern Mediterranean to southern Italy, normally on sailboats. The people are also accused of laundering the illegal proceeds from the migrants’ trafficking activity.

The arrests come after a four-year-long investigation by the Italian national police, coordinated by the anti-mafia prosecutor’s office of Catanzaro, said Francesco Messina, anti-crime director of Italy’s state police, in a statement.

Italy has seen a massive rise in the arrivals of seaborne migrants from the beginning of the year although the majority of them come from northern African shores.

The journey normally begins in Aksaray, where the migrants make their first contact with the Turkish cell of the organization and are briefed about the details of the journey. Then they are taken across the border between Türkiye and Greece, first to Thessaloniki and then Athens.

From the Patras port, they were then carried on sailboats to southern Italy. In other cases, the migrants were leaving directly from Türkiye, in particular from Izmir, authorities said.

Italian smugglers then took the migrants to the north of Italy, from where they could reach the border cities of Ventimiglia or Trieste and attempt to illegally cross the border to France and Slovenia, respectively, either by taxi, train, or hidden on trucks.

The migrants were charged around €10,000 ($10,949) per trip, police said.

But the total cost of the journey could be up to €15,000, including the price of traveling across Italy for which local smugglers charged between €500 to €600. Authorities said the payment in Türkiye normally took place via the hawala system, an informal channel for transferring funds.

Police said the people arrested are suspected of being involved in around 30 illegal migrants’ arrivals on the shores of the southern Italian regions of Apulia and Calabria.

Italian authorities said the operation also involved authorities from Türkiye, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Morocco, as well as Europol and Interpol.

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