Thirteen members of Italo-Greek smuggling group have been arrested in Italy

Thirteen members of an international criminal group which smuggled migrants from Greece to Italy were recently arrested, according to a statement released by Italian police on 12 December.

The group is allegedly responsible for smuggling over 100 people into Italy over the course of the past year. They transported migrants below the deck of yachts and charged them EUR 6,000 each for the journey, according to Italian police.

In total, the smuggling ring are thought to have earned around EUR 600,000 from this criminal activity in the past year. Police Officer Francesco Di Sabato told Reuters: “Sometimes payments were made through electronic systems, but we have also found bags with thousands of euros inside.”

The smugglers sought their clients in Turkey, where many migrants are living in overcrowded camps. After crossing the Aegean Sea into Greece, they would be taken from the Greek island of Corfu to Puglia, in southern Italy.

According to data from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), over 11,000 migrants have reached Italian shores by boat so far in 2019. The most common nationalities among the migrants arriving via the sea this year were Tunisian, Pakistani and Ivoirian.

Meanwhile, Greece is struggling with a new crisis. Over 71,000 migrants have arrived in the country in 2019 so far, over 57,00 of whom came via the sea. This figure is already much higher than the total number of arrivals from last year, which reached 50,508.

Greece’s new conservative government is responding to the influx by stepping up the policing of the islands in the Aegean sea. They plan to relocate 20,000 asylum seekers from the islands into camps on the mainland by early 2020 and deport 10,000 migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected by the end of 2020.

TMP – 18/12/2019

Photo credit: MARCO SOLBIATI / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Italian police on training