The Guardian: Turkish smuggling gangs recruit Russian sailors to lead illegal immigration boats

The Guardian: Turkish smuggling gangs recruit Russian sailors to lead illegal immigration boats
The Guardian: Turkish smuggling gangs recruit Russian sailors to lead illegal immigration boats
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• Italy has arrested 14 Russians on charges of smuggling migrants since the outbreak of the Ukrainian war

Two Italian non-governmental organizations revealed, on Sunday, that human smuggling gangs in Turkey used dozens of Russian sailors instead of Ukrainians to lead boats carrying illegal immigrants from Turkey to Italy.

A report issued by the Italian NGO “Archie Porco Rosso” and “European Border Line” indicated that the arrests of Russians accused of driving illegal immigration boats doubled compared to the previous year, in addition to the arrests of Syrians and Bengalis, as well as people from landlocked countries such as Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. According to the British newspaper “The Guardian”.

The newspaper noted that the Italian police have arrested at least 14 Russians on charges of smuggling illegal immigrants by sea, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The report indicated that a sea route from Turkey to Italy was established by a criminal network of Turkish smugglers as an alternative to the long Balkan land route leading to the European Union, as about 11,000 migrants arrived on the Italian coasts in 2021 from the Turkish ports of Izmir, Bodrum and Canakkale.

The report stated that smugglers initially used Ukrainian sailors, many of whom fled Ukraine to escape military service during the war against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region, but since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February, the number of Ukrainians attracted by Turkish smugglers has decreased.

He added that Turkish gangs began training asylum seekers to drive boats, recruiting Turkish sailors, and hiring increasing numbers of Russians and other former Soviet republics, according to the Guardian.

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For his part, lawyer Giancarlo Liberati said: “In the past, smugglers recruited some Russians to drive the boats, and it was mostly individual cases, but a few months before the invasion, we noticed an increase in the employment of Russians to drive the boats carrying migrants and their participation became almost systematic.”

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Last May, a boat carrying about 100 migrants collided with an old dock in the Italian city of Cederno, where two people died in the accident, both Russians, believed to have been the captain of the boat.

Last November, the Italian police arrested 3 Russians who sailed on a boat carrying about 100 immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to the coast of Sicily.

The head of the Sicilian public prosecutor’s office, Sabrina Gambino, said a well-organized Turkish criminal network using allegedly stolen or chartered luxury boats was behind the operation.

The illegal immigration boat captains face up to 15 years in prison.

According to charities and lawyers, the majority of Russians currently detained in Italian prisons claim they had to flee their country to flee military service and to refuse to fight in Ukraine.

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