Italy dismantles network of illegal migrants from Tunisia aboard speedboat



PALERMO, Italy (Reuters) – Italy has dismantled a criminal ring that was transporting migrants safely to Sicily for around 3,000 euros ($ 3,379) on a speedboat capable of making the crossing from Tunisia in less four o’clock, magistrates announced Tuesday.

Palermo prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for 15 suspects for human trafficking and smuggling cigarettes, according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters. All were Italian residents, but most were born in Tunisia.

Twelve suspects have so far been arrested and one speedboat impounded, along with two fishing boats and seven cars the group has also used, police said.

More than half a million migrants have flocked to Italy since 2014, but most of them have paid much less to Libyan-based smugglers (typically $ 800 to $ 1,300) to board overcrowded and disorganized boats. state for a journey that often ends in tragedy.

Some 12,200 people have died in the past three and a half years attempting the crossing. Those who did then spent several days at sea aboard rescue vessels and were routed through Italy’s official immigration system.

Rather, smugglers offered those wishing to reach Europe a safe journey across some 200 km (124 miles) of sea in less than four hours, with the goal of arriving completely unnoticed.

“The danger of this organization was as follows: it allowed irregular migrants to dodge all authorities and thus could have transported people who should not be allowed in Italy or Europe,” said the chief prosecutor of Palermo, Francesco Lo Voi.

During an intercepted phone call, police overheard a potential client, who had not been smuggled into Italy, say that he was in hiding from the Tunisian police and that he feared being arrested in Italy for ” terrorism ”, according to the court document.

Police said they checked five level crossings, and each earned smugglers around 40,000 euros.

During a trip, police intervened after 14 migrants were dropped off at a cove near Marsala, Sicily. Some 100 kilograms (220 lbs) of contraband cigarettes were also part of the payload.

If she had not been arrested, the organization was able to make at least two crossings per week, police said.

($ 1 = 0.8878 euros)

Written by Steve Scherer; Editing by Tom Heneghan



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