Police arrest 18, bust migrant trafficking ring

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Italian state police have arrested 18 people for running an immigrant smuggling ring that trafficked refuges into France with the goal of reaching northern Europe.

“A squad in Cremona took two years to uncover an organization for human trafficking that operated internationally,” said a statement from the Polizia di Stato.

Police said they “found a large and branched criminal association that for payment facilitated the entry of non-EU citizens from Syria, Egypt, Eritrea and Sudan”.

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Police say the extensive network had direct contacts with traffickers based in Catania, Sicily and North Africa (Polizia di Stato).

The ring that mostly moved refugees from Ventimiglia near the French border to Nice was based in Milan and made up of Egyptian and North African nationals along with those from Afghanistan, Sudan and Albania, many them with Italian residency, as well as Romanian and Italian citizens.

The extensive network had direct contacts with traffickers based in Catania, Sicily and North Africa set up to move illegal, mainly Syrian, immigrants to northern Europe.

With help from boatmen, the organization knew where landings would take place on the Sicilian coast or Puglia then facilitated transportation of refugees to Milan’s central railway station after fees were paid.

Refugees were eventually accompanied to Ventimiglia near the border with France and hidden while waiting for transport. Cross-border trips were then made mostly at night through an extensive network of smugglers, said police, who used cars, vans and trucks carrying migrants “often packed like goods in wooden crates and in the trunks of cars or even dozens crammed into small vans”.