Italy arrests 29 for smuggling migrants from Greece, Turkey

ROME, May 10 (Reuters) – Italian police on Wednesday arrested 29 people on charges of belonging to a criminal group smuggling migrants by boat from Turkey and Greece, a statement said.

Italy is struggling with a sharp rise in arrivals of sea migrants, with over 45,000 coming ashore so far in 2023 against about 12,000 in the same period last year, with numbers growing especially from north Africa.

Boats are also increasingly reaching Italy’s coasts via the eastern Mediterranean route. In February, dozens of people who had left Turkey died in a shipwreck off the southern region of Calabria.

Police said the 29 people arrested were part of a network active also in Greece and Turkey. The 29 were not only smuggling migrants to Italy but also helping them to reach central and northern European countries, police said.

Police said migrants – mostly from Asia and the Middle East – were asked between 7,000 and 15,000 euros ($7,705 – $16,512) for the trip and smugglers made large use of sailing boats, looking to escape police checks at sea.

The boat captains were mainly Ukrainians or people from “the former Soviet Union area,” the statement said, while other parts of the criminal group mostly came from the Middle East.

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

Reporting by Angelo Amante, Editing by William Maclean

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