Rome, A total of 12 people were arrested in Sicily on Thursday on human trafficking charges.
Authorities in the central Sicilian town of Caltanissetta said 11 Tunisians and seven Italians were accused of facilitating illegal immigration of mostly North African citizens to Italy.
The operation involved around 120 officers.
Investigators allege the criminals brought migrants from various points along the Tunisian coast across the Mediterranean to Sicily in several small, high-powered boats.
Police first grew suspicious of such illegal activity when one of the boats sank at a port in the southern Sicilian town of Gela in February of 2019.
Each crossing to Sicily involved 10 to 30 people and took about four hours. Suspects charged around €3,000 ($3,105) to €5,000 per person, according to police.
The gang operated from Niscemi, north of Gela, in cooperation with an entrepreneur who provided the migrants and traffickers with work contracts to secure their stay in Italy.
Recorded phone calls also revealed that the smugglers were willing to leave the migrants for dead if the boats faced engine trouble.
The topic of migrants arriving by boat is highly controversial in Italy. The newly elected far-right government seeks to halt arrivals.
According to the Interior Ministry, more than 93,200 people have reached the country’s shores so far in 2022.
Recently, Italy refused to accept hundreds of migrants who were rescued from maritime distress by international aid organizations, causing a dispute with Germany and France.
Source: Ghana News Agency