SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Nearly 30 people including Iraqis were arrested in Italy, Greece and Albania on Wednesday over profiteering several hundred million euros to smuggle refugees and migrants into the European Union from Turkey.
“We hope to have curbed the phenomenon, for the next few weeks or the next few months,” AP quoted Lt. Col. Giuseppe Giulio Leo, head of Italy’s financial police in the southern city of Lecce, as saying.
“Still, we need to take into account that there will be someone ready to join the organization and take over the various roles.”
He further said the smugglers used mostly sailboats and yachts, but also fishing boats and less sea-worthy craft, packing between 30 to 180 people on board, according to AP.
The detainees were believed to be part of a wider ring with as many as 80 members that organized at least 30 smuggling operations that transported at least 1,100 people by boat from Turkey to the coast of Puglia, and then to other European countries, AP cited EU law enforcement agency Europol as saying.
The masterminds of the operations are believed to be in Turkey, Leo said. Lecce prosecutors have activated diplomatic channels in a bid to extend the operation, “with the hope of apprehending the presumed criminals located there”.
AP reported that two if the detainees were brothers who are Iraqi citizens accused of running logistics to help the migrants reach northern Europe.
Another ringleader, also Iraq, is accused of helping the smugglers evade detection in Italy and return to Turkey via Greece, AP said.