Italy police bust Eritrean people trafficking ring

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Migrants arriving in Sicily, where the people trafficking investigation was launched in May. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP
14:34 CET+01:00
Italian police said on Wednesday they had busted an Eritrean trafficking ring accused of smuggling migrants into Europe on perilous Mediterranean boat crossings, including one in which 244 people died.

Police arrested ten Eritreans after an investigation uncovered "existence of a transnational organization, operating in Italy, Libya, Eritrea, and other North-African states," according to a statement released by police in Catania, Sicily, where the investigation was launched in May.

The group organized boat departures from Libya to Italy, with "footsoldiers" in the Lazio and Lombardy regions who provided "logistical support to migrants and help them from Sicily to Italy, then on to other countries in Europe," Antontio Salvago of Catania police told AFP.

SEE ALSO: Migrants dice with death to reach Europe

Nine of those taken into custody were arrested on November 25th in Italy, while the tenth - named as Measho Tesfamariam and accused of being one of the ringleaders - was arrested on Tuesday in Germany.

The group is accused of organizing 23 trips from Libya to Italy between May and September, while Tesfamariam is alleged to have personally overseen in Libya the departure of an overcrowded vessel which sank off the North African coast between June 27th and 28th, killing all 224 people on board.

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During a raid in Catania, police also arrested an 11th Eritrean accused of harbouring nine Somalians, eight of whom were minors, in a small locked room. 

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