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Italian police arrest Eritrean gang who smuggled migrants

Alleged human traffickers who had arranged more than 20 boat trips from north Africa to Europe picked up in sting operation in Italy and Germany Ten suspected migrant smugglers were arrested on Wednesday in Italy and

Alleged human traffickers who had arranged more than 20 boat trips from north Africa to Europe picked up in sting operation in Italy and Germany

Ten suspected migrant smugglers were arrested on Wednesday in Italy and Germany, including the alleged ringleader behind a treacherous journey that killed an estimated 244 people off the coast of Libya in June.

The alleged human traffickers, who were picked up in an operation called Tokhla, were all Eritrean. They were charged with conspiracy and aiding illegal immigration. An 11th Eritrean was arrested for harbouring the migrants.

The operation marked a significant victory for Italian police, who said the smuggling ring arranged more than 20 trips between north Africa and Europe between May and September. The suspects allegedly used their network across Italy, including the Lazio and Lombardy regions, to smuggle the migrants to other European countries.

“This is a very important operation carried out by the Italian police with the cooperation of the German police and other authorities, and we think we have caught some important people within the organisation,” said Giovanni Salvi, the chief prosecutor in the case.

Police in Catania, who lead the investigation, also found nine Somalis, including eight children, during the operation. The victims had been locked in an attic by the suspected smugglers while they awaited payment by from the migrants’ families.

Salvi told the Guardian that the children were in good health.

In October the Guardian highlighted the risks facing migrant children once they land in Europe, including sexual exploitation and forced labour. Of more than 12,000 unaccompanied minors who arrived in Italy from Africa this year, the article said about one-third had gone missing from foster homes and government shelters.

Traffickers are also increasingly using children to drive boats of migrants to Italy. This year, 18 minors have been arrested and sent to jail in Sicily on trafficking charges.

Investigators in Catania on Wednesday said the international smuggling organisation operated between Italy, Libya, Eritrea and other north African countries. Among those arrested was Measho Tesfamariam, who lives in Germany and was believed to be one of the organisers of the June voyage. Relatives of the victims in that sinking had sought to contact him for news of their loved ones, the police said.

The criminal group is alleged to have cells in several European countries and organised migrants’ journeys from their villages to the final destination in exchange for money.

Police said the investigation into the smuggling ring had begun in May, after another vessel carrying 206 people was rescued by the Italian navy as part of the now-curtailed Mare Nostrum programme to patrol the Mediterranean Sea and rescue migrants. Another 17 migrants had died on that voyage.

The Mare Nostrum programme, which was launched following the deaths of 360 migrants in a shipwreck in October 2013, was wound down in November due to political pressure and replaced by Operation Triton, a programme headed by the EU border patrol agency. Triton patrols will search for and rescue migrants up to 50km from Italian territory, leaving at least 150km of water between Libya and the Italian island of Lampedusa unpatrolled.

Source: TheGuardian

Review overview
  • Masawa December 3, 2014

    This is what Eritrea and Eritreans have become? Were this people helping Eritreans or harming them?
    Only the Eritrean refugees in Libya and Italy or Europe can answer the question the right.

    I have a question to the Warsay generation Eritreans who have lived in Sudan as the recent refugees.
    Why are the recent Eritrean refugees treated badly by the Sudanese police and public? Any Sudanese police or kid beat and send any Eritrean to jail, or rob an Eritrean his money or mobile phone, and no Eritrean embassy staff or Sudanese security will defend the Eritrean in the Arab Sudan.
    However, the Ethiopians are better respected than the Eritrean in Sudan and the Ethiopian Embassy will send a lawyer to defend any Ethiopian citizen but the poor Eritrean is robbed, raped and sold to slavery by the Sudanese.

    Why is the Eritrean citizen so cheap in the Arab Sudan?

    Please help me with answers.

    • Muhammad December 4, 2014

      You sound like you’re more concerned by the abusers of being ARABs instead of their actions. I hope the abusers are not also doing it on us because of the same obsession of us being Habesha!!!

    • Sol December 4, 2014

      You asked “Why is the Eritrean citizen so cheap in the Arab Sudan?

      Because the Sudanese security officers and politicians are the other face of the coin to the mafia regime of PFDJ.

  • Wadbahar December 3, 2014

    We have to congratulate the Italian and the German police for this wonderful and superb job, which only dedicated fighters for the noble human rights can do. These police men and women made greater persons of themselves and greater nations of their countries. We are sure, they will redouble their efforts to fight one of the ugliest crimes against humanity and prevent these wicked men from being successful in their evil mission to crush the body, the heart, mind, and spirit of human beings, who are their country men and women too.

  • ogbai December 5, 2014

    Wadbaher, for security reason let the police of any country do their job, and lets wait to see their finding first. My main concern is that how much is going to help to slow the flow of our refugee from the tyranny system. Don’t you think our concern should be to find out what is the main cause of this all. I would rather wait my congratulations to see the main man the dictator getting arrested. That will slow the flow of our refugee for sure. We don’t have to be that excited by such game like work. The real crime is done by the Rasheida and the company of the dictator starting by his generals. This is not serving us much but to the dictator to buy him some time to extend to do more damage to our Nation. What in a world is doing when the Italian host the Eritrean government few days ago that they should arrest Mr.Osman instead listening to his lies. This is just another game, playing politics at the coast of our dying Nation and people.