Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Organized crime makes growing profit from migrants in Italy

Criminal organizations, both national and transnational, appear to make increasing illegal profit from human influx in connection with the migrant crisis that is affecting Italy.

On Tuesday, Italian police arrested dozens of people, including circus owners and Sicilian officials, suspected of being part of an international organization that helped migrants gain illegal entry to Italy.

The island region of Sicily, in southern Italy, is seen as a gateway into Europe by thousands of migrants traveling by sea. Investigators said the organization brought more than 500 migrants to Italy mainly from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

According to investigators, migrants paid up to 15,000 euros (16,058 US dollars) each for entry. They were hired under false pretenses as circus workers with falsified authorizations obtained through the help of local officials.

Earlier this year, another major investigation involved several officials in capital Rome. In a wiretap, one of them, Salvatore Buzzi, said his organization was making more money from the migrant trafficking than from drugs.

Europe's largest reception center for asylum seekers, Cara di Mineo, in southern Sicily, was involved in a related scandal having to do with the alleged rigging of public contracts.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, the director of Cara di Mineo, Sebastiano Maccarrone, explained that the Italian State pays the rent of the compound 29.5 euros (31.6 US dollars) per day for each migrant, which include services, activities and salaries of the center's employees.

Many Sicilian residents interviewed by Xinhua said that despite pitying the desperate migrants who escape wars and unrest in their countries of origin to seek a better life in Europe, they cannot tolerate anymore the many corruption scandals together with the migrants.

"Reception centers are flourishing. They are big business for private companies, they get rich and the state creates a good reputation for itself by saying that it is able to welcome the migrants. Look at us poor citizens. Can this be called hospitality?" a father of four children, Gaetano Castorina, told Xinhua.

On Tuesday, Raffaele Cantone, an anti-mafia magistrate and the head of Italy's national anticorruption authority, underlined that the criminal system around the migrant influx could be even much larger than uncovered so far.

"In some regions of Italy, especially where there is a strong presence of the organized crime, strange reception centers were born, which also rely on hotels and other facilities," Cantone said at a parliamentary meeting.

The connection between the illegal management of migrant services and the organized crime could be confirmed by further checks that are being conducted by authorities, the anticorruption head said, announcing stricter government measures to control public contracts in connection with the migrants.

   Xinhua -

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