Italian police arrest 19 suspects including Kurds for smuggling migrants into Europe

Migrants are seen onboard the Ocean Viking rescue ship in the Sicilian port of Messina, Italy September 24, 2019. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Italian police said on Saturday that they had arrested 19 people, including Kurds, accused of running a smuggling ring bringing migrants to Europe.

Italian police said in a statement that the investigation, which began in 2018, unveiled a network that involved hired or stolen sailboats transporting migrants via Turkey and Greece to Italy, according to AP.

Police added that some migrants then traveled to the French border and were smuggled by vehicle into France.

the arrested suspects included Iraqi Kurds, Afghans and Italians, police said.

Investigators began looking into the alleged smuggling ring when ships carrying migrants began to arrive in the Sicilian city of Syracuse in 2018.

One of the alleged rings’ bases was in Bari, southern Italy, where false documents were issued indicating the migrants had housing, a requirement for residency permits, police added.

Other bases were in Milan and Turin in northern Italy as well as in the town of Ventimiglia, near the French border, the statement read.

The ring was “dedicated to facilitating the entrance, stay and transit toward northern Europe of migrants coming from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said police.

Italian police further said skippers who were engaged to sail the boats to Sicily were paid about $1000 per crossing, while migrants each paid about $7,200 to be smuggled from Asia, via Turkey and Greece, into Italy.

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